The Indian festival of light, Diwali, blooms later than usual this year on Sunday, November 12. Known as Deepavali in South India, it marks the triumph of good over evil and Hindu god Rama over the demon Ravana, who ravages his kingdom. It’s a time to light lamps, perform pujas or prayer offerings, light fireworks, and indulge in the best savory delicacies and mithai (or sweets).
Here are some places you can visit to celebrate this year:
When Aroma opened in Fletcher Place two years ago during the Covid pandemic, it took a while to make waves. Once it did, though, there was no turning back. Helmed by Smee’s Place Bar & Grill owner Vinita Singh, it brought dishes like a sinful bhuna ghee goat, a punchy pepper chicken fry studded with mustard seeds, and the creamiest sweet lassis to downtown Indianapolis. A second Aroma location in SoBro brings you the same delectable dishes. The four-course Diwali thali is available for lunch and dinner November 10–12. 501 Virginia Ave., 317-602-7117; 4907 N. College Ave., 317-737-2290; aromaindy.com
As a born-and-bred Midwestern Tamilian with a South Indian grandmother at home, it goes without saying that my favorite Indian food is found at home. Recently, I’ve had to amend that statement with one caveat: the best street food is found at Hari Foods, an unassuming cafeteria-style 20-seat restaurant in Castleton. Go for the chaat, prepared the same way it is on the streets of Kolkata; stay for the glistening spicy chili paneer (one order won’t be enough); and if you still have room, the pillowy bhaturas and Punjabi chole are musts. And if you’re looking for Diwali savories and mithais—especially made-to-order malai ghewar and anjeer pathra—Hari Foods has a full counter of them, and they make perfect party favors. 5850 E. 82nd St., 317-778-5778
“There’s no such thing as vegetarian biryani” is a line I’ve heard too many times to count. But at this community eatery, there definitely is such a thing, and it’s called pulav. Although Bawarchi Biryanis opened only a year ago, its extensive offering of rice dishes has taken Indianapolis by storm (and bowl). It’s a crime not to order a Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, made as traditionally as they do in the kitchens in Andhra Pradesh, for the table. Owner Rajesh Kodumuri suggests a weekend visit, when you can order one of 24 delectable pulav dishes accompanied by a juicy, perfectly grilled kebab. Round out your meal with a rare South Indian specialty, like haleem, Guntur baby corn, or natukodi chicken fry. 4825 E. 96th St., 317-669-2331
The giant white sign outside this dive bar located across from a truck stop on the south side reads “Indian & American Restaurant.” But don’t be fooled. If you’re making a pit stop here, you won’t order a burger and fries. This unassuming neighborhood joint has mastered Punjabi dhaba cuisine. Think crisp purian and bhaturas as big as your head, still fluffy yet perfectly golden from a dip in the fryer, served with a specialty sabzi. We recommend the paneer, softer than anything you’d find at a Patel Brothers; aloo gajar, the restaurant’s take on a humble North Indian household staple; and, of course, butter chicken or paneer. Better yet, you can also count on picking up your post-Diwali brunch feast here: plates of piping-hot parathas, topped with dollops of ghee, pair wonderfully with a mango lassi so sumptuous you’ll slurp it down at the first chance. 4605 S. Harding St., 317-786-1022
Say the word “dosa,” and you’ve got my attention. Expand on that term, and you get a more captivating magical phrase, “live dosa station.” If that’s what you seek, you can find it at Fishers’ India Sizzling, nestled between Sahm’s and MashCraft. Walk in, and your senses are immediately overwhelmed—it’s a true celebration of all types of Indian food at its best. We recommend enjoying this year’s Diwali dinner here, where—in addition to made-to-order dosas—you can look forward to a live chaat station and a dessert buffet that puts the best of patisseries to shame. 11301 Village Square Ln., Fishers, 317-845-5500