Diwali, the colorful Festival of Lights comes at no better time this year. With much of the world in conflict, Diwali is a celebration of victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. It’s also a time when families dress in festive colors, light diyas and sing and dance.. Furthermore, it’s the biggest and most important holiday in India. Even though most people associate Diwali with the Hindu religion, it’s also observed by Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and visitors. And of course, Diwali is celebrated not only in India but in several cities across the globe. To that end, here are just 10 of the world’s best Diwali celebrations.
When Is Diwali Celebrated?
Diwali the Festival of Lights is celebrated on the darkest night of Kartika, the eighth month of the Hindu calendar. In relation to the Gregorian calendar, Diwali usually held in October or November. This year, the first day of India’s biggest holiday is November 12. In all, the Festival of Lights celebration lasts for five days and each day has its own special significance. For example, the first day is a day to honor Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. On the fifth and final day, this event is known as Bhai Dooj and celebrates the connection between brothers and sisters. Today, more than one billion people worldwide celebrate Diwali.
Set along the Sarayu River in Northern India, Ayodhya hosts one of the world’s largest Diwali celebrations. In fact, this historic city set a Guinness world record last year for the featuring 1.5 million lakh diyas. While that record has since been broken, Ayodya remains not only one of the largest but most important for Hindus. After all, it’s known as the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama and one of the Sapta Puri pilgrimage cities. In addition to seeing lakh diyas at Ram Ki Paidi, there are other important sites for you to see in Ayodya. This includes Ram Janmabhoomi, the birthplace of Ram and Hanuman Garhi Mandi temple.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
One of the finest celebrations for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka is unquestionably in the capital city of Colombo. What’s more, it’s an official national holiday and Diwali the Festival of Lights events are held across the city. If you are fortunate enough to be in Colombo during Diwali, make sure to visit the Shivm Kovi temple. Of course, there are other important attractions to consider. For example, you should set aside time to see St. Anthony’s Shrine, the National Museum and Gangaramaya Buddhist temple.
In Nepal, Diwali goes by another name, however the celebrations are much like what you would see in India. In this case, it’s known as Tihar and is a five-day festival that’s held across the country. While you can enjoy fireworks and excellent Nepalese cuisine, there are some important places to visit. Perhaps first and foremost is a visit to Pashupatinath Temple, known as one of the world’s most sacred Hindu temples. As a matter of fact, it’s a World Heritage site and the oldest temple in Nepal’s capital city. At this temple, you will see the largest collection of diyas and plenty of family friendly activities to enjoy.
With a large Indian diaspora, it comes as no surprise that London is home to several Diwali events. While the city’s annual celebration was already held this year in Trafalgar Square, there are many more upcoming festivities. For instance, there’s going to be a Bollywood Boat Party at Westminster Pier and a Diwali party at the National Maritime Museum. That’s not to mention enjoying special events and Indian cuisine at places like Everest Inn, Gymkhana and Trishna.
In Australia, a major Diwali celebration is held a week earlier in Melbourne. On November, Melbourne will host the Victorian Festival of Diwali, featuring a full day of family-friendly fun. This includes Indiana cuisine, live music, plenty of dancing and more. On the other hand, there will be other Diwali events occurring in Melbourne. In fact, another Diwali event might be event larger at Marvel Stadium on November 11. In all, you will be able to enjoy several Diwali events in Melbourne almost the entire month of November.
There are Diwali celebrations held all over India and particularly in the largest cities like New Dehli and Mumbai. While the choice is yours, Mumbai is a great choice, especially with its seaside location. In addition, celebrations will be happening through India’s most populous city, with fireworks, colorful lights and more. Among the notable events for you to consider are the Diwali Carnival November 5 and BOL Diwali Celebration November 12. Lastly, be sure to visit popular spots like Marine Drive and Charni Road for spectacular fireworks.
New York City, United States
In New York, Diwali isn’t a national holiday, but as of this year, it’s a school holiday. Like London, New York’s Time Square already held a major Diwali event. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be other celebrations to enjoy in November. Take for example a Diwali celebration in Queens November 4 and Festival of Lights celebration at the Pierre Hotel November 10. That’s not to mention additional celebrations at South Street Seaport and a festival at the Bhakti Center. Even though the Times Square event has passed, you can still expect to see unofficial celebrations there starting November 12.
Port Louis, Mauritius
As an island nation, Mauritius will host one of the most remote Diwali celebrations. However, it’s no less important than other world cities, especially for Mauritians of Hindu faith. What could possibly be the biggest community event is the shopping carnival at the convention center. This event known as the Shopping Carnival has just begun and runs through November 5. However, there will be other celebrations throughout Port Louis, with families holding traditional ceremonies, wearing colorful clothing and enjoying festive cuisine. Did you know that this country off the coast of East Africa has the third largest Hindu population in the world?
As one of the world’s most diverse cities, Toronto is home to several people from South Asian descent. In fact, the largest minority group of South Asian, including descents from several regions of India. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that Toronto offers several Diwali events. This includes a festival at Nathan Phillips Square next to city hall on November 4 and 5. In addition is a Diwali celebration in College Par November 8 and North York Festival of Lights November 11. Of course, there will be other special events, including in neighboring communities like Mississauga and Scarborough. In all, Toronto is an excellent city to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Last but certainly not the least is Varanasi, one of India’s oldest cities. In fact, many Hindus consider Varnasi as the most important site for the Festival of Lights. Like Ayodya, it’s one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and a prominent center for Diwai celebrations. However, in Varanasi, it’s known as Dev Diwali or Dev Deepwali. While the tradition of lamp lighting is the same as other world cities and last over five days, there are some differences here. In this case, this festival is the observance of the Hindu god Lord Shiva’s victory of the demons Tripurasura. What’s more Dev Deepwali is held 15 days after Diwali on Krtik Purnima. During this time you can expect a large crowd enjoying festivities along the Ganges River.
Special Recommendation: Jaipur, India
While there are many amazing Diwali celebrations throughout India, one last city worth mentioning is Jaipur. Indeed, many will say this city south of New Dehli hosts the world’s best Festival of Lights celebration. That’s because during this festive time, the city is awash in magnificent colors and lights. In particular, you should visit places like Nahargarh Fort, Hawal Mahal, Johri Bazaar and Ashardham Temple. Among the many more cities to consider in India are Amritsar, Goa, Gujarat and Kolkata, among several others.
About the Author
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 stories still appear in syndication across over 20 CBS websites, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, The CW, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.