NEW DELHI—On Thursday a group of American and European tourists joined an Indian family to experience Diwali, the festival of lights.
Diwali, also called Deepavali, is celebrated to mark the victory of a righteous god over a demon king. People celebrate by lighting lamps, decorating their homes, buying new clothes, exchanging gifts, and reciting traditional prayers.
“For me it was important to see people actually celebrating what the purpose was,” said Loree Campbell, a tourist from Washington, D.C.
Campbell is a regular visitor to India but celebrated Diwali for the first time with a family on Thursday.
“My best memory from what I experienced today will be the warmth that I felt from my host,” she said.
According to one homestay company in India there is an increase in the number of tourists interested in experiencing Indian festivals with a family.
“They want more than just visiting museums and monuments,” said Tejas Parunekar, co-founder of SaffronStays.
Tourists want a more personalized experience of the culture and prefer to be a part of a family’s celebrations, he says.
Sheetal Bhalla, Campbell’s host and the owner of Thikana homestay, says the tourists she hosts are very inquisitive and ask a lot of questions about Indian customs.
“They want to immerse themselves and are open to embracing our culture,” she said.
Bhalla’s whole family gets involved in the festivals and make sure the guests are a part of the family’s celebrations. Bhalla says her guests end up making life-long connections with each other and with her family.
After lighting firecrackers and participating in the festival prayers, the tourists in Bhalla’s home, who shortly before were complete strangers, chatted like old friends while eating Indian delicacies.