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How To Celebrate Diwali, The Hindu Festival Of Lights, In LA

A large sign spelling out Happy Diwali in bright colors sits in front of an ornate Hindu temple that's lit up at night
Diwali is a celebration of lights for Indians across the world
(Courtesy of BAPS Shri Swãminãrayan Mandir )
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The stairway is covered in hundreds of flickering candles, illuminating the night. There are 122 pillars and 129 archways covered in intricate hand carvings of tales of devotion, lit up in multiple colors. A whiff of ghee and cardamom fills the air.

You’re in a crowd of people, but you feel a sense of serenity and hope for the new year. The ornate pink sandstone temple in Chino Hills resembles a palace, making you forget you’re in Southern California.

It’s Diwali, and the energy is always unbeatable.

As an Indian girl growing up in L.A., I often looked for pieces of my culture in my surroundings.

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A woman is kneeling in traditional Indian dress and wearing a blue facemask.  She is lighting a candle as part of the Diwali celebration.  There is another kneeling behind her in the foreground also lighting candles. The entire room is illuminated in pinkish-purple lights.
Celebrating Diwali consists of lighting candles around a rangoli, a multi-colored decoration made of rice, sand, and flowers.
(Courtesy of BAPS Shri Swãminãrayan Mandir)

Diwali is one time of year I find my piece of India in Southern California, with household ceremonies full of beautiful symbolism, and lots of delicious food.

The Five Days Of Diwali

Diwali, known as the festival of lights, is one of India’s biggest holidays. The five-day festival celebration gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness or good over evil. The holiday is always held around the last week of October or the first week of November, but the date can change based on the timing of the new moon.

The festival commemorates fresh starts and is literally full of light. Here’s my guide to celebrating Diwali in L.A.

Part of the beauty of Diwali is that there are five days, each representing a special part of the festival, with its own customs and symbolic meanings, all tying into bringing in a new year filled with light.

On the first day of Diwali (Dhanteras), celebrated this year on Monday, Oct. 24, homes are cleaned to prepare for the new year, and rangoli — a multi-colored decoration made of rice, sand, and flowers — is created. The rangoli represents the happiness and positivity of a household, and is intended to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and good luck.

My mom usually used this as a time to put up Christmas lights across the house; they'd stay up until January, serving the purpose of celebrating two holidays. She would also use these lights to decorate every area of our home. People usually buy silver utensils, silver coins and gold for themselves and their families on what is considered to be a day full of blessings. The house is also lit with diyas, oil-filled lamps that stay lit for the next five days.

The second day of Diwali — Choti diwali, or "small Diwali" — is Diwali on a smaller scale, and also a major day for purchasing festive foods, particularly sweets. There is no Diwali without boxes of “mithai” or sweets. In Indian culture, boxes of sweets are often given as gifts, especially during Diwali. My personal favorite part is stashing away the best sweets before my brother gets to them!

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A picture of a temple illuminated by orange, purple, blue, and pink lights. A group of people standing watching. One is taking a picture with a smartphone.
Chino Hills Hindu Temple illuminated as part of the festival of lights
(Courtesy of BAPS Shri Swãminãrayan Mandir)

The most important day of Diwali is the third day. This day is about asking for good fortune and prosperity from the goddess Lakshmi. People perform a special prayer (puja) and then celebrate with fireworks and — you guessed it — more food. On this day homes and temples are officially lit up with lights if they aren’t already. If you skip all the other celebrations, this is the day you celebrate.

This is the day my mom usually makes a feast full of food and sweets. (I know I’ll be paying for it later at the gym!) There is something very special about homemade Indian sweets. They're unique in every way from texture to temperature to ingredients.

My personal favorite is Gulab Jamun, soft delicious balls made with flour and soaked in rose-flavored sugar syrup, best enjoyed warm.

The fourth day is the actual beginning of the Hindu New Year. It is also celebrated with an Annakut, meaning “a mountain of food.” Several delicacies are cooked and offered in a devotional prayer to show gratitude and seek blessings for the new year. And yes, they are created into a literal mountain of food.

A shrine is made up of two characters. Both have their right hand up showing a small symbol on their palm and are wearing a golden headdress. Surrounding them are towers of different types of sweets that are multicolored. There are also large tapestries on both sides made up of gold as well as different colored tassels.
Annakut made up of all the desserts people make to offer to celebrate the new year.
(Courtesy of BAPS Shri Swãminãrayan Mandir)

The best part? You get to sample it all after.

Part of the beauty of finding pieces of your culture in the city you grew up in is when you find the pieces that feel like home.

Places To Eat

If at this point in the article you’re craving Indian food, or are trying to celebrate Diwali without the cooking, here are some of my recommendations:

Manohar's Delhi Palace
Manohar's Delhi Palace is a popular restaurant among the Indian community that's surprisingly not in Little India in Artesia. Every great memory of take-out Indian food comes from this family-owned gem.

Manohar's Delhi Palace
581 Azusa Way, La Puente, CA 91744
11:30 AM–2:30 PM, 5–9 PM

Udupi Palace
If you happen to be in Little India and want to try something different than the standard chicken tikka masala, I would recommend trying some South Indian eats over at Udupi Palace. One of the great aspects of India is that every region has not only a different dialect and customs but also food. South Indian food is one of my personal favorites, and you can’t go wrong with a masala dosa, a savory pancake-like dish made with a fermented rice and lentil batter filled with a potato curry filling.

Udupi Palace
18635 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA 90701
11:30 AM-9 PM

Kapoor’s Akbar
Another place for noteworthy quick Indian food is Kapoor’s Akbar. This was a hidden gem when I made it my mission to try as many Indian food places in L.A. as possible. They offer delivery for those who live in the area, and their menu has everything from classic items to fusion. I have yet to be disappointed.

Kapoor’s Akbar
701 W Cesar E Chavez Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
11 AM-3 PM, 5-9:30 PM Monday through Friday
4-9:30 PM Saturday and Sunday

Best Places To Buy Indian Sweets

You can find a variety of great places in Little India in Artesia. Here are my go-to spots:

Ambala Sweets & Snacks

I feel like an (Indian) kid in a candy store in Ambala, where there’s an actual buffet of sweets to create your custom box. There are so many different types I couldn’t even tell you what they all are, but my personal favorites are pistachio barfi, rasmalai, and gulab jamun. You can also dine in and enjoy some “sweets or snacks.”

18433 Pioneer Blvd, Artesia, CA 90701
11 AM-9 PM, 7 days a week

Indian Sweets and Spices

Indian Sweets and Spices is a chain of Indian grocery stores across Southern California that is bound to have everything you need for cooking anything Indian. Pro tip: turmeric is about 80% cheaper than the Whole Foods version, so get all your spices here.

Indian Sweets and Spices
3126 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039
9409 Venice Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
10 AM-9 PM 7 days a week

Diwali Celebrations Around L.A.

A large walkway with bushes in the middle leads up to a temple in the center that is lit up with blue, pink, and purple for the Diwali celebration. There are two other smaller temple-like structures next to it on both the right and the left that are also lit up.
The Diwali celebrations kick off this week and will continue through next month.
(Courtesy of BAPS Shri Swãminãrayan Mandir )

Monday, Oct. 24:
Chino Hills Hindu Temple Diwali
15100 Fairfield Ranch Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709
6 PM

Visit a local temple to see the lights fill the area and enjoy traditional food.

Wednesday, Oct. 26:
Chino Hills Hindu Temple Indian New Year/Annakut
15100 Fairfield Ranch Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709
All day

Radha Krishna Mandir
12634 Pioneer Blvd. Norwalk, CA 90650
5 PM

Friday, Oct. 28:
Culinary Cookout - Diwali Festival of Lights
Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel
One Ritz Carlton Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629
6-9 PM
Chef de Cuisine and New Delhi-native Sanjay Rawat celebrate Diwali with a colorful spread of traditional regional Indian cuisine with a modern twist, vibrant lights, and other special touches.

Saturday, Oct. 29:
Chino Hills Hindu Temple Kids Diwali Fair
15100 Fairfield Ranch Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709
11 AM-7 PM

Indian Culture Society Diwali
Royal Delhi Palace
22323 Sherman Way, Canoga Park
6:30 PM
Email for tickets or

Friday, Nov. 4:
Walnut Sikh Temple
20001 E Walnut Dr. S, Walnut, CA 91789

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