Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is the most significant Hindu festival, though observants of other Eastern religions also celebrate it. Each year, it is commemorated with pomp and grandeur worldwide, with each destination offering its own distinct twist. More than a billion people across the globe honor the holiday with joyous celebrations and symbolic rituals.
Known as the “Festival of Lights,” Diwali signifies the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. During this five-or-more-day festival, people illuminate their homes with lamps, burst firecrackers, exchange gifts and indulge in huge feasts. If you’re looking to experience the joyful spirit of Diwali, here are some of the best cities to celebrate this vibrant festival.
One of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, Varanasi is the epicenter of Diwali celebrations. Located on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, the city comes alive during Diwali with thousands of diyas–or oil lamps–floating in the river, creating a mesmerizing spectacle after sunset. Devotees gather in the temple complexes and participate in ancient rituals, making Varanasi an unparalleled destination to experience the religious and cultural fervor of Diwali. Travelers visiting during this time are in for an incredible, immersive experience in which they can witness the rich traditions and rituals associated with the holiday.
Durban, South Africa
South Africa, with its vibrant Indian community, is a great African destination to experience exciting Diwali festivities. In fact, the city of Durban hosts the largest Diwali festival outside of India. The highlight of the celebrations is the Diwali Street Parade, which attracts thousands of spectators. Elaborately decorated floats, colorful costumes, and lively music fill the streets as the parade brings together people of all cultures. The local Hindu temples, such as the Shri Mariammen Temple and Lenasia Hanuman Temple, hold religious ceremonies and host cultural events during the festival. South Africa’s Diwali celebrations add a unique African flair to the festival, making it a truly vibrant experience.
Singapore, with its diverse population, celebrates Diwali in grand style. During the festivities, Little India is adorned with bright lights and decorations, including colorful elephant and peacock ornaments. The neighborhood becomes the hub of celebrations. Devotees take part in aarti ceremonies and offer prayers to deities. The streets come alive with music, dance performances and the aroma of delicious Indian cuisine. The iconic Deepavali Light-Up on Serangoon Road is famous for showcasing a stunning display of lights. Singapore is an ideal destination for a multicultural Diwali experience.
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago is home to a significant population of Indian descent. The country embraces diversity and celebrates Diwali as a national holiday. In its capital city of Port of Spain, the Diwali Nagar Cultural Festival is a highlight of the celebrations. This week-long event showcases Indian music, dance performances and traditional food. The stunning display of lanterns creates a mesmerizing spectacle. Vibrant fireworks fill the sky, adding to the festive atmosphere. Trinidad and Tobago offers a one-of-a-kind blend of Caribbean culture and Indian traditions during Diwali, making for a truly unforgettable time.
In Kathmandu, Nepal, Diwali is commonly known as “Tihar.” The holiday is celebrated over the course of five days with a unique blend of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Each of the days has a different theme and meaning. The vibrant festival begins with the worship of cows, followed by rituals dedicated to crows, dogs and oxen. The city is illuminated with oil lamps, and homes are adorned with colorful Rangoli. During this time, Kathmandu becomes a hub for cultural events, where traditional music, dance and religious processions fill the streets.