How is Diwali Celebrated Around the World?

How is Diwali Celebrated Around the World?
Singapore's Little India is beautifully lit-up for Diwali 2020 , Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Whether you’re celebrating Diwali in Singapore, South Africa or even Dubai, these lights will certainly guide you home

OT Staff
November 14 , 2020
13 Min Read

From being confined to our homes for months to getting accustomed to the new normal, this year has been one hell of a ride. And finally we are inching towards its end. Yes, it’s been a challenging year for everyone.

Diwali, being the festival of lights, has brought a ray of hope. But this Diwali is different. This year, it’s not about flaunting our best clothes or buying our favourite sweets or spending extravagantly on jewellery and firecrackers. This Diwali is more about spreading the light of joy, hope and humanity. This Diwali is about being thankful for our loved ones and spending time with them. It’s also about remembering those who have left us due to the dreadful virus. And this Diwali must also be about helping those who have lost their jobs, have suffered financial stability and have had a tough year. This is the time when we should be supporting our local communities. This Diwali is all about being hopeful, for a brighter tomorrow.

Winter is here and in most places around the world, its onset is accompanied by anticipation for Christmas. In India, however, the winter comes with a bang—literally. Diwali, popularly known as the festival of lights is a five-day winter festival with a focus on spending time with friends and family. It’s a celebration of good v/s evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over gloom. Children love it for the delicious sweets and colorful crackers, grown-ups love it for getting some time to spend with their families and friends.

People celebrate the joyous festival by cleaning and decorating their homes, lighting candles and diyas and drawing vibrant rangolis at the entrance of their homes. On the day of the auspicious festival, sweets are eaten, new clothes worn and gifts exchanged. Some like bursting crackers while others prefer staying indoors to revel in the festivities. This year however, some sates and Union Territories in India have imposed a ban on bursting crackers to prevent air pollution, which can prove to be very harmful in the present circumstances. 

Other than India, Diwali is also celebrated in other parts of the world where Hindus are in prominent numbers. In many countries like Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, Diwali is an official holiday. These countries celebrate the festival with almost as much enthusiasm as India. Millions of people have flocked to witness firework displays to mark the start of Diwali. Depending on the location, celebrations may include millions of lights in houses, fireworks, gift-giving and spiritual rituals, feasts and more. This year will be different, of course, with more focus on maintaining social distancing and staying indoors. 

Here are some countries which celebrate Diwali with as much enthusiasm as Indians do with a little difference in their celebrations.

Singapore

This national holiday can be enjoyed by taking in views of the beautifully decorated houses and smelling the strong, musky scent of incense sticks wafting through the air. The city’s ‘Little India’ can be sampled by taking a walk through the bazaars, exhibitions and rangoli art during Diwali. Open-air concerts and decorative lights add to the charm. Tekka Market in Little India is the one-stop place to shop for new clothes for the festive season.

 
 
 
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This year Singapore's Little India is all set to celebrate Diwali virtually. Even though the authorities have scaled down the celebrations this year, the festive spirit is still there. A Deepavali Light-up ceremony will also be held as a hybrid event which will be streamed live on the social media handles of the Little India Shopkeeper's Association and a local TV channel. From virtual cooking classes to virtual rangoli making competitions and virtual craft workshops, there's a lot in store for the Indian diaspora in Singapore. 

UAE

Two girls decorate the beach with diyas

If you hang around in Dubai during Diwali, you’re sure to have the best time of your life. Diwali celebrations in Dubai go on for five days, where the shops of Dubai buzz with people looking to buy gold. Fairs held at various malls and hotels sell decorations and traditional sweets which add to the excitement of the festival. Bollywood Parks, a resort inspired by the vibrant film industry sees special performances, light shows, and exquisite rangoli art displays.

 
 
 
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This year, celebrations will kick off at 6.30pm at Dubai Festival City Mall, which will play host to a show titled Imagine. During the show, Bollywood-themed performances and grand events like a water, fire and laser show will enthral visitors. Then there’s the Indian Pavilion at the Global Village which will come alive with stalls showcasing Indian food and exhibits. Another magnificent event is going to be at Palm Jumeirah, where The Palm Fountain will be lit for a special performance.

Australia

View of the night sky during Diwali

The land down under won’t let you down! Diwali is celebrated in Melbourne and Brisbane where people of Indian origin and the locals come together to enjoy a grand display of fireworks, traditional dances, and live entertainment. Festivities at Federation Square in Melbourne is said to be the largest and grandest Diwali celebration in the country.

 
 
 
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This year, New South Wales will allow people to have guests over for Diwali but there's a limit of 20 visitors at a time. Lockdown and curfew has been lifted in Victoria but several restrictions on gatherings are still in place. There's a limit of ten people for outdoor gatherings in public places. In Queensland, people can host as many as 40 people at their homes for Diwali parties, while in South Australia, people have been allowed to host 50 people at their homes. The Hindu Council of Australia in Sydney will also be hosting online events as part of the festivities. 

USA

Bhangra at the Pentagon in 2013

The USA might seem like it’s halfway around the world, but it’s much closer than you think. The western nation isn’t behind in celebrating the festival of lights. Diwali was issued an official status in 2003 and since then, the fun has only increased. Brimming with a large number of immigrant Asians, the Indian communities in the country celebrate the festival with much enthusiasm. Hindu temples host priests who perform prayers and a communal dinner. Some of the bigger cities even have Diwali parades!

This year, Diwali for the Indian diaspora in USA came a week early with Kamala Harris' victory in the 2020 US Presidential Elections. Indians across the nation are now looking forward to hosting virtual events and celebrating Diwali with their loved ones with all the necessary guidelines and safety protocols in place. 

Nepal

Kathmandu during the five day festival of Diwali/Tihar

This multi-ethnic and multi-lingual country nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas is the only Hindu kingdom in the world. So it’s no surprise that Diwali, also known as Tihar or Swanti is celebrated here to honor Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. Every one of the five days has a special significance. Preparation of tasty food for animals like cows and dogs is not unusual here.

 
 
 
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In Nepal, Diwali is also a time to worship dogs as the country will get together to celebrate Kukur Tihar, a day dedicated to the worship and honour of dogs. They will be draped in flower garlands and a tilak on the forehead as a mark of respect for their loyalty towards humans. This year, Nepal will celebrate Kukur Tihar with equal fervour. 

Indonesia

Balinese women make decorations for the temple

The Indonesian island of Bali is known for celebrating Diwali as a majority of the population living there consists of Indians. Diwali in Bali has people shopping for crackers, clothes and sweets, greeting family and friends, releasing floating lanterns along with performing various rituals, similar to those performed in India. They also celebrate a similar festival called Galungan which signifies the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth.

This year too, Diwali promises to be a grand affair for the Indians living in Indonesia, especially in Bali. Even though the Hindu population in Bali is limited, Diwali celebrations will still be the loudest. 

England

British post box with a 'Happy Diwali' message

Even the cold, damp and windy terrain of Britain cannot put a damper on the spirits of Indians during Diwali season! Being the second largest ethnicity in England, Indians here get the most out of celebrating Diwali as a way of reconnecting to their roots. One of the grandest celebrations happens at the Golden Mile in the heart of Leicester where LED shows are popular. People light up their houses with diyas and fairy lights and exchange gifts with each other to feel closer to home and celebrate Diwali.

 
 
 
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With the second lockdown now under way in England, Diwali celebrations will not be the same this year. The festival will be observed virtually at most places in the country this year. Many councils of the Indian diaspora across England have opted for virtual celebrations and events this year. The Indian Consulate also hosted an online event called Diwali on Screen this year. 

South Africa

A younf South African girl dresses up for Diwali

Home to at least one million Indian immigrants, a number of Indian festivals including Diwali are celebrated here. Celebrated over two days, clay lamps are lighted; communities indulge in traditional Indian sweet and savory treats, wear their best clothes and socialise with loved ones. Many avoid eating non-vegetarian food but some don’t mind digging into a yummy South African braai. In Johannesburg, one can indulge in some halaal food, flea markets, henna artists, fireworks and entertainment for the kids. 


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