This year, on October 23rd, tens of thousands of Sikhs and Hindus will be celebrating one of India’s grandest festivals, Diwali – the Festival of Lights. Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival that signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The preparation and rituals for Diwali typically last for five days, with the main festivities happening on the evening of the new moon.
To prepare for the festival, people clean and decorate their homes. On Diwali night, people dress in their best outfits, light candles inside and outside their homes and gather to say prayers typically to Lakshmi- the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Fireworks follow, as well as a feast, and the exchanging of gifts between family and friends.
One of the best places to celebrate Diwali is the Golden Temple of Amritsar located in the state of Punjab. It truly is an ineffable experience, one that if you have the opportunity – you do not want to miss. The festival of lights lives true to its name at the Golden Temple as tens of thousands of Sikhs gather in and around the temple complex for one of India’s largest celebrations. The entire complex is draped in lights and it is quite a sight to behold.
When I attended Diwali at the Golden Temple, it was half past 7pm when the fireworks started and what ensued the following 30 minutes was a feast for the eyes. I found a nearby building and made my way to the rooftop to get the best possible view. The main fireworks display launched from the temple complex itself but all around the temple enthusiastic Sikhs set off endless rounds of deafening fire-crackers. Though the main fireworks organized by the temple ended after 30 minutes or so, colorful explosions could be heard and seen above for at least another 4 hours at which point I decided to retire for the night.
If you do decide to treat yourself to one truly amazing experience, I recommend staying at either Radisson Blu Hotel Amristar or the Hyatt Amristar both located near the Golden Temple. There are only a few higher end hotels because Amristar is a pilgrimage city but it is definitely worth the trip.