(By Jenna Berndt)

Hindus across the globe will gather with family and friends on Wednesday, 7 November, to celebrate Diwali, the annual Festival of Lights, in a feast of fireworks, food and, unsurprisingly, lights.

“It is a time of feasting, spending time with family, and prayer. Homes are decked with rangoli patterns (a type of Indian art comprising intricate patterns), flowers and lights to celebrate the occasion,” says Verushka Ramasami, Durban-based editor of the spicegoddess.co.za blog.

India is the birthplace of Diwali, but there are many Diwali celebrations and events to look out for in other parts of the world.

India

An official holiday and the biggest celebration in India, Diwali celebrations are a sight to behold. A five-day festival is a celebration of light over darkness and good triumphing over evil, and homes across the country are decorated with thousands of lights.

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The Sanskrit word Deepavali translated is a “series of lighted lamps”. Traditionally, diyas are lit to ensure that there is no room for darkness, windows and doors are thrown open, and doorsteps are decorated to welcome guests.

 

“Visiting India during Diwali is a truly bucket-list travel experience,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa. “India is a colourful, warm and welcoming country to visit, but during Diwali, it’s even more magical.

“Be an early bird and hop on board our Trafalgar Treasures of India, Celebrate Diwali trip next year. Diwali will be celebrated on 27 October in 2019, and this journey gives travellers the unforgettable experience of celebrating with a local family in their home. You also get to visit a traditional market and see locals preparing for the festival. Deck yourself out in a gorgeous, colourful traditional Indian outfit on this ‘Be My Guest’ experience.”

 

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South Africa

Diwali is not an official public holiday in South Africa as in some other parts of the world. However, Ramasami advises, employees can take the day off as a day of religious observance.

Festival preparations start weeks in advance, Ramasami adds. Homes are spring cleaned and delicious goodies are prepared, including traditional Indian sweetmeats. Diya-shaped (a diya is a traditional clay lamp) sugar cookies decorated with icing and savouries including mini-samosas and puris (deep-fried bread) are popular.

 

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The Diwali Spectacular Durban 2018 🎆

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There is also shopping that needs to be done for new clothing and gifts for family and friends, adds Ramasami.

“As a child, the thought of Diwali approaching was the equivalent of looking forward to Christmas. The day starts early with a traditional three-oil bath, followed by prayers, cooking a big, fat Indian meal, and entertaining family and friends. There is loads of laughter and food comas for days.

“As night falls, the clay lamps are lit and, outside, homes are decorated before the fireworks light up the night sky. Nowadays, homes are lit up with fairy lights instead of clay lamps.”

Durban, home to South Africa’s largest Indian community, has Diwali shopping festivals and Diwali shows locals can look forward to, says Ramasami.

“The largest Diwali India Shopping Festival in Durban is taking place at the Moses Mabhida Stadium from Friday, 12 October to Sunday, 4 November 2018,” says Nicky Potgieter, Flight Centre Leisure Marketing Leader. “It is a wonderful celebration of Indian and Hindu culture, packed with colourful sights, sounds and, of course, delicious Eastern cuisine.”

Outside Durban, the Weekend Market Jo’burg is hosting a Diwali Festival on Saturday 3 November and Port Elizabeth is getting ready for the Nelson Mandela Bay Deepavali Festival on Sunday 4 November 2018.

Mauritius

Diwali is also a popular celebration on South Africans’ favourite Indian Ocean island, Mauritius. Around 63% of the island’s population has Indian origins, 80% of whom are Hindu, and the entire island comes together to enjoy the five-day celebration.

Houses are cleaned and decorated, even walls get a fresh coat of paint. Rangoli designs are made with rice flour and used to decorate doorsteps, courtyards and floors. Entrances and walkways are given special attention and are lined with the small clay lamps.

 

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Happy Diwali! Open Door. Grand Baie. #diwali #diwalimauritius

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“Plan your Mauritius holiday for 2019 (take your pick from one of our recommended beach escapes in our new brochure) during Diwali and enjoy the festive atmosphere and local traditions,” says Potgieter.

“The beauty of travel is that it allows us to connect with and gain an appreciation for different cultures. Diwali is a chance to do just that,” adds Richardson.

The Diwali festival is also an official holiday in Fiji, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Jamaica, amongst other destinations. Wherever you are in the world this Diwali, look out for special events taking place. It is a wonderful opportunity to bring some light into your life.

 

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Wishing you a Diwali that brings happiness, prosperity and joy to you and all your family

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