VARANASI DEV DEEPAWALI (DIWALI): THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Article and Images by Tania Chatterjee
Varanasi Dev Deepawali (Diwali) is a memorable experience. During Dev Deepawali the Ganges riverfront comes alive with a million oil lamps. Varanasi Dev Deepawali (Diwali) attracts lakhs of pilgrims and tourists. The sight of people performing rituals and the lighting of million oil-lamps is a delightful sight for visitors and photographers.
Dev Deepawali (Diwali) and Diwali
Let me clear the facts for you; Dev Deepawali or Dev Diwali is different from Diwali celebrated across India. Both are festivals of light but have different rituals. Dev Deepawali (Diwali) is celebrated 2 weeks after Diwali. Dev Deepawali (Diwali) is celebrated on the evening of “Kartik Purnima” (full moon) whereas Diwali is celebrated on “Kartik Amavasya” (new moon). Kartik is a month in Hindu calendar.
Mythology behind Dev Deepwali (Diwali)
As per Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva defeated the demon Tripurasur on Karthik Purnima. This victory is celebrated as Dev Deepawali (Diwali). Large number of devotees takes a holy dip in river Ganges on this day. It is famously known as Kartik snan (bathing). People believe that kartik snan helps to wash away the sins. People who take Dev Deepawali seriously will have their kartik snan first before doing any ritual for Dev Deepawali (Diwali).
Hindu devotees strongly believe that on this day, Gods descends to Varanasi to take a dip in river Ganges. So the feeling is compared as taking a holy dip with the Gods. Ganges is considered to be one of the holiest rivers in Hindu religion. After kartik snan people offer flowers and prayer to river Ganges.
Dev Deepawali (Diwali) dates
Dev Deepawali (Diwali) usually falls in the month of November. November 29 is the date for Dev Deepawali (Diwali) 2020. The ghats of Varanasi will be decorated with millions of Diyas (Earthen lamps) in the evening of November 29. It is a spectacular sight.
Preparation for Dev Deepawali (Diwali)
Dev Deepawali preparation starts from early afternoon. Preparation involves washing the earthen lamp in holy water and letting them dry. You can see many men and women helping each other making the wicks and setting the oil lamps in decorative patterns. As the sun goes down all the earthen lamps are lighted. Varanasi turns into a paradise when all the steps of the river front glitter with millions of diyas.
The sight of million earthen lamps manifests a sense of energy, joy and divinity. Dev Deepawali (Diwali) is that time of the year when Varanasi becomes a heavenly abode of the Gods.
To know more about other photography opportunities in Varanasi like, the famous Ganga Aarti, street and portrait photography; visit my blog on VARANASI: THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY DESTINATION
PHOTOGRAPHY DURING DEV DEEPAWALI (DIWALI)
Millions of glittering earthen lamps, and the rituals performed by lakhs of devotees create ample opportunities for travel and portrait photography. opportunities. It is a challenge to shoot in low-light condition; most importantly, to get a proper composition in the middle of a crowd is another daunting task. Fotorbit trips help you to deal with these challenges. The people and their rituals amidst the lights from the earthen lamp create a manifestation of internal energy. It is a great moment for a photographer to document the mood.
DEV DEEPAWALI (DIWALI) PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS:
- HIGHER ISO: During Dev Deepawali you need to take pictures in low light setting. While the latest high end cameras do a great job with higher ISO but a good combination with your camera setting can give you decent results. It is very important to avoid grainy mess in your pictures. Therefore, it is very important to known your camera. It is important to understand how high you can push the ISO of your camera confidently. I personally use Nikon Z6; its low light performance is pretty impressive.
- LARGER APERTURE: The larger the aperture, the greater the amount of light that enters your camera. Lower f/x numbers means larger aperture size. Greater aperture size lets more amount of light entering your lenses. I recommend using f/2.8 or lower to shoot Dev Deepawali. Larger aperture lets you go for a fast shutter speed, resulting in minimal camera shake and sharper images.
- LENS: A wide angle lens is a must for Dev Deepawali shoot. I recommend for a 16-35 mm or 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens. You can also carry a supporting prime lens like 50mm f/1.8 for portrait. Prime lenses are compact, easy to carry and help you take sharp and clear pictures.
- SLOW SHUTTER SPEED: Shutter is like a door which allows light to enter. The speed at which this door opens and closes is called shutter speed. Lower the shutter speed allows more light to enter your lens. A good rule of thumb for clear hand-held shots is no slower than 1/60 of a second.
- USE OF TRIPOD: I will not recommend tripod for Dev Deepawali (Diwali) shoot. The most happening event in Dev Deepawali (Diwali) last for 45 minutes to an hour with lakhs of people vying for space. Therefore, you are going to find difficulty in setting up the tripod. Moreover, within this short span of time it will be difficult to move from one ghat to another carrying a tripod. Setting up the tripod will kill your productive time.
- USE OF FLASH: The pop-up flash on camera is not recommended. The light hits the subject directly and flattens it. Off-camera flash with reflective surfaces and diffusers are recommended. Reflective surfaces and diffusers help to soften the light. Within the short period of time, arranging artificial light set up would be time consuming.
- USE OTHER LIGHT SOURCES: Dev Deepawali (Diwali) is the festival if light. Therefore, I recommend to use the existing light source to compose your frame. Play with light, shadow and smoke. Use bigger light sources that are available like street lights or flood light as a back-light to create dramatic composition.
If you are interested to join my Dev Deepawali (Diwali) photography workshop 2020, visit for details.