Visualize a city lighting up in every nook and corner, not a dot of darkness to be found anywhere at any point of time and the sky brightening up with brilliant lights and colourful fireworks. Hard to believe it could happen, right? It happens in Delhi every year on Diwali. One cannot miss Diwali if travelling to this part of the country in mid-October (the date tends to vary every year). It is worth delaying your stay to experience this festival with all its excitement and fervour. It is not just about one day as the preparations start a month in advance with houses getting redecorated, thoroughly cleaned and whitewashed, people shopping for new outfits, gifts, sweets and what not. Diwali is a celebration of victory of ‘good over evil’. According to the Hindu mythology, when Lord Rama rescued Goddess Sita by defeating Lord Ravana and returned to his homeland after his 14 years of exile, the whole city welcomed him by lighting up Diyas (clay oil lamps) all across. Therefore, every house and every building till date is lit up with Diyas, candles and colourful bulbs all over the country let alone Delhi.
Diwali Experience you must do in Delhi, from crafts bazaars to luxe stays in Chandni Chowk.
Attend a taash party
Nothing says Diwali in the capital like teen patti. And there’s no better place be part of the action than those famed farmhouses of Chhattarpur. The vast lawns dotted with tables and divans all set with packs of cards and counters, the copious quantities of alcohol and kebabs to keep you warm in the Delhi chill, everyone in their finery—this is the capital at its most festive. Don’t be intimidated by the corporate lawyers staking wads of cash, electronic devices and even car and house keys—find a table where the stakes suit you, grab a drink and proceed to win some new friends even if you lose some money.
Ride the iconic ferris wheel
Sunder Nagar hosts one of the oldest and most festive Diwali melas in the city. Take the next generation in your family for a ride on the iconic giant ferris wheel and to see some fun magic shows. Plus the food is always excellent, so when you’re done with the rides and shopping, hit the food area and grab a plate of chhole bhatura or aloo chaat.
Be a culture vulture
The festive season’s not just about Diwali. It’s also the start of the performing arts season, with outdoor theatre, concerts and dance performances at the city’s best venues. If you happen to be in the capital during this time, check out the events calendar of the India Habitat Centre or Kamani Auditorium, plus brand new spaces like Oddbird Theatre, and see what’s happening in the city.
Shop some more
Starting with Navratri, the run-up to Diwali is all about sprucing up the house, buying new outfits and meeting your family and friends for rounds of gifting and cards. Dilli Haat, the original pan-India craft celebration, is great all year round. But it is particularly buzzing in the lead up to Diwali, with stalls dedicated to festival paraphernalia. Finish all your shopping and eating and then settle down on a bright cushion on a moodha and allow the haat’s famous mehndiwalis to decorate your palms for the festive season. Also check out Khan Market, which is all lit up and has some great stuff on offer, from idols for your puja thali to handmade wrapping paper for your gift hampers. You can also pick up some beautiful fairy lights and lamps from the shops in Lok Nayak Bhavan, right behind Khan. Check out Good Earth and Nicobar for your Diwali outfit (and pair it with jewellery from Amethyst). Not far away, Janpath’s still your best bet for traditional juttis.
Do Old Delhi in style
No trip to Delhi is complete without a visit to the Old City, whether you’re looking to gorge on Daulat ki chaat, jalebis and parathas, or want to do up your home. Since you’re traditionally supposed to buy something in silver or gold for Dhanteras, head to Dariba Kalan in Chandni Chowk for everything from utensils to silver coins. Chawri Bazaar is great for greeting cards and other souvenirs, while Kinari Bazaar’s your one-stop shop for all things bling.