by Suman Gupta
India is a land of multi cultures, languages, traditions, religions and this tapestry is quite evident in the way every festival is celebrated across different parts of the country. Diwali, the biggest festival in India is a prime example of how a festival can be celebrated differently across the length and breadth of the country.
In North India, Diwali is generally welcomed with lights, firecrackers and wearing ethnic clothes. A significant difference seen in only in the north during Diwali is the enactment and recitation of Ramlila, a folklore on the life of Rama according to the epic Ramayana.
South India is known to celebrate their festivals with simple traditions. During Diwali, communities or households gather in their finest attire and ready themselves for a ritualistic celebration of the festival. The celebrations starts a day prior, with an early morning visit to the temple and prayers are offered via customary puja. The temples are eloquently decorated to revel in the festivities and a family visit to the temples is part of the customs. A unique tradition in the state of Karnataka is the donation of old clothes and belongings to orphanages or the needy, in lieu of new beginnings and washing away old sins.
In the West, Diwali is celebrated quite lavishly and preparations are made weeks before the festival. The festival also marks the beginning of a new year for Gujaratis and Maharashtrians and is therefore celebrated with grandeur. It is also auspicious to buy or invest in something new- from property to a new car or business deal. Homes are filled with the devouring aromas of sweets & snacks that are also exchanged as part of the festival. During Dhanteras, the second day of Diwali a lot of gold is bought and gifted signifying wealth and prosperity.
However, in the East, Diwali is celebrated as an extension to Durga Puja. While some of the traditions remain the same like lighting of diyas, drawing rangolis, fireworks and more, West Bengal and Odisha do have some interesting traditions to ring in the festivities. In West Bengal, makeshift structures of bamboo and cloth are erected in preparation of Kali Puja in owner of goddess Kali to drive away evil from the earth. It is the pious celebration that takes precedence over the material goods. However, in Odisha, prayers are offered to late ancestors on the eve of Diwali. Sweets in the shape of animals like Tiger, Elephant, Horse, etc. are unique to their tradition.
To give you a wide variety of immersive cultural experiences this Diwali, RCI has handpicked the perfect destinations from across the country to celebrate with loved ones.
Himachal Pradesh: The land of serenity and peace, Himachal Pradesh makes for an ideal escape this festive season. Meditate by a lake or walk along forest trails, there is something unique to look forward to. Visit well-known temples like Bhimkali Temple to Jakhoo Temple in Shimla, your spiritual sojourn stops right here. Partake in the revelries by participating in Lakshmi Puja and gorging on sweets/prashad. Join the locals in making clay figurines painted in red or draw up beautiful floor decorations.
Stay at Club Mahindra Kandaghat, which is located on the Shimla-Kalka Highway. Just a 2 hour drive from Chandigarh and about an hour away from Shimla, the area is surrounded by lush green forest. The resort is a treat to one’s eyes and is spread over 15 acres of well landscaped area. It has a pleasant web of manicured lawns, vibrant flowers and elegant blocks that stand against a backdrop of lush forests and offers state-of-the-art facilities with great views of the colourful sunset.
Shirdi: If you are looking for a complete spiritual experience, Shirdi is the place to visit. This small town located in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra is known as the hometown of the revered spiritual leader, Sai Baba. Shirdi is considered one of the most holy places for the Hindus with thousands of pilgrims gathering every day to offer prayers. But during Diwali, the city is completely transformed and puts on a shimmering golden mask that makes for a sight to behold. Early morning prayers offered, temple bells being heard from all parts of the city and people from all across the country coming to seek the blessings of Almighty. Apart from the temple of Sai Baba, you could also visit the various temples and pilgrim sites like Maruti Mandir and Shani Shinagpur temple to get a wholesome experience.
Sterling Shirdi-Sai Wada is a hotel providing the best in class facilities. The thoughtful hospitality with well-appointed rooms lets you relax while you embark on your spiritual journey. Located near Sai temple, approximately, 1 km away, Sai Wada offers well-appointed rooms that help you to unwind as you bask in the peaceful vibes
Puri: Traditionally Puri is known as the city of Lord Jaganath or Lord Vishnu and for its ever popular Rath Yatras. However this holy city during Diwali is unparalleled in terms of its cultural experience. The temples during Diwali are brightly lit up and offers local fairs and street festivals. Groups of people gather to seek blessings of Lord Vishnu and float diyas around the lake surrounding the temples. The local shops and eateries offer traditional Diwali fare.
While in Puri, enjoy a family stay at Sterling Golden Sands that offer the most luxurious vacation to make the most of your Diwali retreat. Located at the scenic spot where Bhargavi River meets the sea, the resort is the ideal place to start your spiritual journey in this temple town. Located in Sipasarubali Village, Baliapanda, the resort stands right next to the Brahma Kumaris Ashram, offering the perfect setting for you to unwind.
Andhra Pradesh:Andhra Pradesh is the oldest state in India and celebrates Diwali with much vigor. In contrast to the fireworks and lights, join the locals with an early start of festivities with temple visits and early morning prayers. Partake in an evening of tradition with by burning the dummies of Narkasur (representation of evil) and pay respect to God. Each of the 5 days of the festival celebrate various aspects of the religious customs that it offers. Gorge on special sweets and delicacies that are prepared specifically during Diwali.
To enjoy the city sights and sounds, one can stay at the Leonia Holistic Destination resort in Hyderabad. Just over an hour’s drive from the Rajeev Gandhi International Airport, Leonia Holistic Destination is India’s first and the world’s finest themed destination hotel. Established with the concept of providing a unique and a fully integrated leisure experience, Leonia comprises of 4 hotels and villa resorts, a 300,000 sq. ft. International convention and sporting facility. With such a jaw dropping amenities and luxury, let Leonia be your perfect Diwali getaway.