How South India Celebrates Diwali

In the south, Diwali or Deepavali is also observed as Naraka Chaturdashi, to celebrate Krishna’s victory over Narakasura.
Rangoli at a home in Bengaluru, 14 November 2001. 
Rangoli at a home in Bengaluru, 14 November 2001. 

While in the northern parts of India, Diwali is a five-day-long festival that culminates with Bhai Duj, in south India the festival is usually a one-day celebration called Deepavali.

In most years, it falls a day ahead of Diwali. This year Deepavali and Diwali are on the same day, October 27.

Northern India associates Diwali with Ram’s return from exile to his kingdom in Ayodhya, and celebrates it as the festival of lights. In the south, however, the festival, also called Naraka Chaturdashi, is observed as Krishna’s victory over Narakasura.

Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana

People begin the day with an oil bath before sunrise. Elders apply oil on the heads of the younger family members. In parts of Tamil Nadu, it is customary to eat a bit of lehyam (a medicinal preparation).

People clean their homes and decorate them with kolam designs. Kolam is similar to rangoli but made using rice flour.

Offerings made to the gods include betel leaves, betel nuts, plaintain, flowers, sandal paste, kumkum, gingelly oil, turmeric powder.

People eat sweets, and crackers are burst in the morning.

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, while people celebrate the day as the victory of Lord Sathyabama over Narakasura, it also marks the closing of accounts for agrarian businesses. Hence, Goddess Lakshmi is also worshipped in the morning.

Diwali lights
Diwali lights

However, in Hyderabad’s Osmania University, students and faculty members mourn the death of Narakasura each year on this day.

Students, some sections of the staff and former faculty members, including writer Kancha Illaiah Shepherd, have been celebrating the festival since 2011.

They say that the Narakasura was a Dalit king and a nature lover who was unjustly killed on this day. To mourn him, students erect idols of the asura and sing his praises.

According to students, Naraka’s lore is not dated. In Telanagana’s Karimnagar and Khammam, Adivasis have been worshipping the asura for a long time.

Students and faculty observe Naraka Shoora Vardanthi at Osmania University in 2012.
Students and faculty observe Naraka Shoora Vardanthi at Osmania University in 2012.


Deepavali is not a major festival in the state. According to Manorama, those who do observe the festival limit celebrations to the ritualistic oil bath and a special meal. In the northern part of the state, lamps are also lit in the evening.

However, from Alappuzha to Thiruvananthapuram, apart from lighting lamps, crackers are burst in the evening.


On the Karnataka coast, this day is celebrated with a ritual called Balipadyami. People worship the Asura king Bali who was killed by Vaman, an avatar of Vishnu, on this day. Part of the celebrations include farmers offering food around their paddy fields.

Nikhila Henry contributed to this article.