To watch the festival of lights from the comforts of your home, savour the special sweets and burst crackers till midnight – are all cliched and boring. This Diwali, break the monotony. Do something different. Travel to a new place, observe new rituals, enjoy local delicacies and embrace a unique experience. We have found these destinations across the globe where Diwali is spectacular.
Have you been to these awesome places yet?
Pushkar: Beyond The Camel Affair
Pushkar Camel Fair
The camel fair has put Pushkar on the world map long ago, but few people would actually go there to celebrate Diwali. Most people would rather be in the nearby Jaipur city to see festivities. The government buildings are usually decked up in lights and there is the lighting of lamp ritual at the Jalmahal.
Pushkar however, has this small town feel to it which adds to the aura. This Diwali comes right before the famed fair, why not combine both, or lose the crowds and leave before the fair starts?
How is Diwali celebrated here:
The temples around the lake are well lit during Diwali and the locals especially the women go there wearing vibrant, colorful sarees, carrying diyas – a sight to behold! Located on the edge of Thar desert, the small town of Pushkar celebrates Diwali with great ardor.
Catch a glimpse of the preparation for the camel fair while in Pushkar. This year the festival dates are 19th to 25th November. Pilgrims will pour in as soon as Diwali ends. They come for the holy dip in the lake, an age-old tradition. The camel fair itself draws thousands of tourists every year.
Do not miss: The Rabdi Malpua at Sarvadia Sweet House.
Some extras to make your trip exciting: If you do plan to stay for the fair, a good idea would be to take a hot air balloon ride and see the festivities from high above. Skywaltz based in Jaipur provides Hot Air Balloon rides in Pushkar on request.
Pokhara: Same Festival, Different Avatar
Nepal has its own way of celebrating Diwali and though it is celebrated at the same time it is not called Diwali, it is Tihar. The Newars call it Swonti. It is similar to Diwali in many ways, especially regarding lighting diyas or lamps inside or outside the house. This 5-day long festival celebrates not only human life and goodness of the gods but also animals.
How is Diwali celebrated:
The first three days, crows, dogs and cows are worshipped respectively. The cawing of the crows stands for grief and sadness, dogs are believed to be messengers of the God of death, and cows signify prosperity. Hence to avert death and sadness and bring in prosperity these animals are worshipped.
The fifth day and last day is Bhai tikka similar to Bhai Dooj, where the sister prays for the long life of brothers and put a tikka on their forehead.
Destination of choice:
Pokhara is my choice over the capital city of Kathmandu for spending these 5 days. It is less crowded and festivals here are celebrated with lot more passion and enthusiasm. If an authentic rural experience is what you are looking for, head to nearby villages and stay with a Nepalese family.
While singing, dancing, merry-making is part of Diwali celebrations, in Nepal they have a ritual where youths and kids go for “Deusi” and “Vailo”, quite similar to the trick and treat ritual during Halloween. Join a group and have fun!
Do not miss: Sel roti, the most popular sweet during Bhai Tikka, other sweet that you must try are Phini.
Some extras to make your trip exciting: Paragliding with Lammergeyer eagles or huge Gryffon vultures
Leicester: A Home Away From Home
Probably the best place to celebrate Diwali outside the sub-continent is London. There are tonnes of communities celebrating Diwali in and around the city. It is the festivals that make expats feel more homesick than ever. It is the festival that make them nostalgic and brings all of them together.
If it is hard to decide which party to attend play safe and, head to the Leicester to celebrate the festival with one of the largest gatherings of Indians outside the country. Though the celebrations have already started, the day of Diwali will be special here.
How is Diwali celebrated:
The Ramlila performance is an all day event with mind-blowing fireworks later. Thus merging the two grand festivals of India, Dussehra and Diwali. Perfect reason for expats to show off their best ethnic wear and indulge in mouth-watering Desi food.
For those who wishing to visit the temple, head to Neasden BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Temple. Lots of food stalls and hot snacks available here all day. The festivities end here with the beautiful fireworks display.
Do not miss: Spicy chaat and Diwali special sweets
Insider tip: The huge Ferris wheel, is a special attraction this year. Expect long queues, so reach early!
Ayodhya: Homecoming Of Ram And The Festival Of Lights
Hymn for the weekend:
Ayodhya plays a very important role in the story behind the celebration of Diwali. But have you ever thought how Diwali is celebrated there? You will be pleasantly surprised to find a small town with over 7000 temples. Each having an idol of Ram, and numerous saints chanting on the banks of river Sarayu.
Chanting is considered auspicious at this time and Ayodhya hosts several holy men from across the country. Valmiki Bhawan, Hanuman Garhi, Kanak Bhawan, Nageshwarnath are the main temples that deserve a visit.
Do not miss: Khurchan Peda, a red colored sweet, is the local favorite, and is found in most sweet shops.
Insider Tip: A trip to the Mani Parbat on Diwali night for the best photography ops. Start early and visit the Buddhist Vihara, caves with small cells that was converted into a Hindu temple. The view from the top is worth it!
Varanasi: Where Gods Descend And Celebrate With Mortals
The one with the Ganges:
However cliched it may be, I could not leave Varanasi out of the list. Yes, it will be terribly crowded, polluted and all that, and yet who can deny the charm of Varanasi during Diwali?
A very popular destination both among foreign and local tourists, it is called the Festival of Gods here. It is believed that gods descend upon earth and bathe in the ghats of Varanasi during this time.
It is also a time to honour the martyrs as wreaths are laid at Dasaswamedh Ghat. Varanasi also celebrates Ganga Mahotsav that has various cultural programs including classical music shows, martial arts, art and crafts fair, boat race etc. It happens to be the best time to visit Varanasi.
Do not miss: Madhur Jalpan ( Kodai Chowki, Near Spice KCM) happens to be the most famous sweet shop here, eat some and pack some for home.
Make it more exciting by taking a boat ride on the Ganges in the evening from where you can see the city lit up.