Picture this: hordes of people dressed in new clothes, vibrant colors and sparkling jewelry, all gathered together to dance and sing through illuminated streets, covered in bright lights and intricate floral decorations while the aroma of incense and the sound of live dhol (Indian hand drums) waft through the air.
For five glorious days, this is how millions of people all across the globe celebrate the spectacular holiday, Diwali.
Legend has it that Diwali (or Deepavali) was first celebrated to mark Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya after spending 14 years in exile, destroying the evil demon Ravana upon his return. Lord Rama’s people welcomed him home by lighting diyas (small oil lamps) all over the city so that he would see them from the sky as he flew in. As a result, Diwali is known as the festival of lights and symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, light over dark and knowledge over ignorance. Fast forward to a few centuries later and today people celebrate by exchanging gifts, feasting on mithai (traditional sweets), staging lively dance performances, igniting fireworks and adorning households with rangoli (intricate designs made with flower petals, ground chalk and colored rice). The crown jewel of festivities, however, (from which the holiday received its namesake) is the lighting of diyas on the third day of the festival to commemorate Lord Rama’s return (just as the people of Ayodhya did). A time for reflection and jubilation, here’s a look at some unexpected places around the world where Diwali celebrations reign supreme!
South Asians are the second largest immigrant population in Great Britain. People from all walks of life and different religions appreciate and celebrate this joyous occasion, indulging in lavish feasts, shopping and of course magnificent parades! Over the past decade national and civic leaders (such as Prince Charles, whoa!) have attended Diwali festivals and today, Leicester hosts some of the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India.
Trinidad and Tobago
In Trinidad and Tobago, Diwali is a community event, celebrated throughout all of the islands. A major proponent that makes the Islands’ version of Diwali unlike any other across the globe, is the Diwali Nagar, or Village of the Festival of Lights, located in Chaguanas, Trinidad. Expect a night jampacked with entertainment, as the stage lights up with live dance and music performances, that are so grand that you’ll be wondering if you stepped into a Bollywood Movie. The stage is also graced with a folk theatre performance featuring skits and plays depicting Lord Ram’s story and many other scenes from Hindu epics. Thousands of people participate in the island-wide festivities and after a week of feasting, dancing, singing, dressing up and lighting diyas, the celebrations are completed with fireworks, ending Diwali with a bang… literally!
Imagine all the exciting festivities as mentioned above… and add on an island twist. That’s what Diwali is like in Sri Lanka. Diwali customs here are similar in many ways to the celebratory traditions of Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. Indulge in Singhalese cuisine before locals usher in the festival of lights with colorful ceremonies and rituals performed on the shore after dark.
Known as Deepavali in Fiji, the festival is a widely celebrated event; so much so that it’s actually a public holiday! Deepavali in Fiji is often regarded by visiting and immigrant Indians as being observed on a larger scale than in India! Activities and events begin at least a week before the actual day. A unique feature to Fijian Deepavali is the cultural aspect of it; Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Muslims take part in all of the Deepavali rituals and traditions and celebrate the holiday with much fervor as a time for sharing with friends and family, regardless of their religious associations and practices.
With a large Indian population in Australia, cities like Sydney and Melbourne see massive Diwali celebrations, that only grow in both scale and arrangements with each passing year! Most notably, Diwali at Federation Square in Melbourne has grown to become the largest celebration in Australia. From a magnificent display of fireworks to nonstop live entertainment complete with both classical Indian and Bollywood dances, it’s safe to say that Diwali in Australia is a grandiose celebration!
Where are you celebrating the Festival of Lights this year? Let us know in the comments below!