Dev Dipawali and Death of a Festival in the era of Internet Glamorization

In the last 5 years, Banaras became a destination for backpackers who started coming here in search of budget stays, cheap food and camera worthy moments. The unique culture of Banaras was fascinating. Finding order in chaos and life in death became a routine. Bloggers quoting Mark Twain in their articles and Instagram posts was not rare anymore.

Dev d 2015 (1 of 1)
Empty ghats of Banaras, clicked in the year 2016, with a point and shoot camera
Dev d 2015 (1 of 1)-2
Empty ghats of Banaras, clicked in the year 2016, with a point and shoot camera

The more Banaras became mainstream, the more people started finding out new things about this city. One of the unique cultural aspects was Dev Dipawali. A festival celebrated in Varanasi 14 days after Dipawali on the night of Kartik Purnima. It is believed the all the 33 Cr gods and goddesses descend to earth and take a dip in Ganga. In the time when Ganges in Varanasi has become an epitome of garbage pollution, wonder if any god would like to bath here. I think, they go to Allahabad instead.

2016 vs 2017

So Dev Dipawali started to find mentions in a few travel blogs and then a few more. Soon it became a part of articles talking about ’10 festivals you should attend in India’. Dev Dipawali was on the top of the list because who wouldn’t want to click pictures of ghats illuminated with million diyas?

Dev d 2017 (7 of 10)
Crowded ghat of Banaras, clicked in the year 2017, without a DSLR

Till 2016, Dev Dipawali remained an underdog festival where a few tourists from Bihar and the Bengal would visit, wander between a ghat to another and take a boat ride under the full moon. Came 2017, the era of Internet, its mentions on travel blogs and vlogs became so high that everyone wanted to be a part of this festival. My fascination with this unique culture and Banaras being 3 hour away from Patna made me visit this festival every year. Everytime I visited, I wrote a blog, since I was new in this field, the need to show ‘Offbeat’ was really important. Unknowingly I became a participant in ruining the aura of this festival.

The crowd at Dev Dipawali 2016

The crowd at Dev Dipawali 2017

Here are some pictures giving you an idea on what happened between 2016 and 2017.

Dev d 2017 (3 of 10)
Irresponsible behavior like this invites incidents

To be honest, Dev Dipawali and Banaras administration was never ready to handle such a huge crowd. It was a local festival that didn’t expect this influx of tourists in the first place. Suddenly hostels were completely full, the prices of hotels went up a week in advance and the boat rides starts taking advance booking with a at least INR 800 in advance.

Earlier, the ghats that used to be empty were now filled with people. The tiny lanes and galleries had no place to walk. People pushing, shoving each other, lines moving so slow that walking between Assi Ghat and Tulsi Ghat would now take at-least an hour.

When I was leaving the festival, I found out that the road leading to Assi Ghat had vehicles parked in the most irresponsible way you can imagine. The people of Banaras had problem crossing to another side so they decided to jump over the vehicle and pass. In moments a couple of cars and jeeps got their windows smashed because everyone was walking over the hood and trying to cross the line.

Dev d 2017 (10 of 10)
Multiple cars got their windows smashed because there was no parking space

I will be honest when I ask you not to come to Dev Dipawali this year. The festival is mismanaged not because of administration. Banaras is an old city that never expects this level of crowd. Last year, it was just a matter of moments and an unfortunate event would have defamed the entire festival. I can only chuckle and wonder about the owners of those vehicles who decided to park irresponsibly in the middle of the road.

Dev Dipawali is just one of the many examples of what happens when a place or an event becomes mainstream. The examples are spread from Ranthambore to Mcleodganj.

Banaras is an amazing place but only when you have time to experience its beauty. Dev Dipawali will be the worst introduction to this lovely city. If it was so bad in 2017 then I am sure that it will increase tenfold this year. The winters arrive in a week after Dev Dipawali. The migratory birds from Siberia start visiting soon after. No time can be perfect between December and February.

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This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Ee Sing

    This is a good and a lot of information about the place. From the photo, I can tell it’s really crowded in that area.

  2. Diane Bishop

    Thank you for your thoughtful look at what has happened to this festival. I’d love to visit and if I do I’ll go when the festival is not happening.

  3. Utsav Singh

    Pictures looks magical 🙂

  4. sumit

    hi
    an interesting genuine article indeed , but are only two main ghats lit or are other smaller ghats also lit . But i guess most of the crowd will again come as internet paves the way for offbeat events to come into main stream

  5. I stay in India and I didn’t know about all the things you mentioned above. I have always wanted to visit Banaras that too during Dipawali but after reading your post I guess I should visit sometime else. 🙂 Thanx

  6. MC Adventure Blog

    Thanks for your honesty. I often wonder about this type of thing when I write about my own ‘offbeat’ experiences on our blog.

  7. Thank you for this informative blog and I was pleased to learn about Dev Dipawali in Varanasi. At the same time, agree with the perspective about increase of visitors impacting the local celebrations and infrastructure. I related when you give examples of McLeodgunj too. Back in 2002 when I visited the place for the first time, it was a different world all together, but now with so many visitors and long term stay tourists, it has changed completely. Apparently, the administration is taking corrective actions there! Appreciate your advisory of not to visit Varanasi during Dev Dipawali and totally respect it!

  8. Alexander Popkov

    A good read! Nice to see someone sharing their thoughts on an important topic.
    I think this goes beyond this Festival. In our Internet age, anything authentic can be suddenly overcrowded with tourists. It is hard to say what can be done about it. We as travel bloggers cover interesting things and share our best experiences, but there can be consequences.

  9. Manon van Os

    I have never heard of this place but it’s good that you write about it. When I ever visit I will make sure to not visit during the festival, cause it looks way too crowded. Otherwise, it seems like a great place to visit.

  10. Su Bha Sun

    That’s the irony of internet yug. I believe everything comes with a price tag. Totally agree with your message to the world. Some things are meant to be left with a little bit of peace and dignity. We people just spoil some beautiful things with our mean behaviour.

  11. Chandni

    I have been to Banaras once before and I can totally relate to this. An eye opener, thanks for putting this up.

  12. Purvi Kamaliya

    I cent per cent agree with you. It is such an auspicious festival but isn’t managed well by the government. The ghats become dump yards after Dev Depavali. I also believe that there should be proper pathways for the people. God forbid if something happens, there would be no way for the security to reach. Not to mention the risk in case any medical emergency.

  13. Indu

    I have visited Banaras. Savored its spiritual aura. And relished delicious vegetarian food there. Dev Dipawali is indeed a feast to eyes but not attended any till now. Though you have cautioned still I may like to be part on this festival.

  14. katerina

    Unfortunately mainstream kills authentic and it’s such a pity when a place loses its beauty because of the hordes of people! Thanks for your honesty

  15. Opposite Tourists

    Great informative article. It’s inevitable that as more people travel that places will become more crowded. It’s a shame that the mass crowds are ruining the festival for the locals however.

  16. monicavaklinova

    If I have to be honest I ‘ve never heard of this place before but I love learning about new and interesting spots. It seems really crowded but I bet it is really beautiful. I love stunning views and I am sure this place has a lot to offer! 💗

  17. Alex Trembath

    The effect of the internet, in particular social media, and in particular Instagram, on tourism has become a very serious topic and it’s good to see bloggers raising the issue for debate. A thoughtful article that helps to develop the conversation.

  18. Daniel

    This was a very interesting read. It’s so unfortunate to hear that something so authentic is suddenly overcrowded with tourists. That’s how authenticity vanishes overnight. Thanks for sharing this

  19. Kylee

    This is the scary thing about what travel bloggers do, we bring people to areas and then it gets overcrowded and ruined. Its so sad, but there is a way around it I believe, talking about the lesser visited places and maybe spreading out the tourism.

  20. mohanaandaninda

    This is a very timely post. As the pressure of population increases and the internet makes us a large volume of rough uncontrollable mass, we must focus on sustainability. Whether be it in tourism or in trying to do to work towards having a better environment. Thank you for writing this piece.

  21. A genuine and honest blog.Thanks for the share! I have pinned this blog as well.Keep blogging.Looking forward to reading more blogs