One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolizes the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance".
The festival is widely associated with Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, with many other regional traditions connecting the holiday to Sita and Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, Yama, Yami, Durga, Kali, Dhanvantari, or Vishvakarman. Furthermore, it is, in some regions, a celebration of the day Lord Rama returned to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating the demon-king Ravana.
During Diwali, people wear their finest clothes, illuminate the interior and exterior of their homes with diyas and rangoli (oil lamps or candles), offer puja (worship) to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, light fireworks, and partake in family feasts, where mithai (sweets) and gifts are shared.
Diwali is usually celebrated twenty days after the Dashera festival, with Dhanteras, or the regional equivalent, marking the first day of the festival when celebrants prepare by cleaning their homes and making decorations on the floor, such as rangoli.
The second day is Naraka Chaturdashi, or the regional equivalent which for Hindus in the south of India is Diwali proper.
Western, central, eastern and northern Indian communities observe main day of Diwali on the third day, the day of Lakshmi Puja and the darkest night of the traditional month.
In some parts of India, the day after Lakshmi Puja is marked with the Govardhan Puja and Balipratipada (Padwa), which is dedicated to the relationship between wife and husband.
Some Hindu communities mark the last day as Bhai Dooj or the regional equivalent, which is dedicated to the bond between sister and brother, while other Hindu and Sikh craftsmen communities mark this day as Vishwakarma Puja and observe it by performing maintenance in their work spaces and offering prayers.
Diwali marks a major shopping period in India, and is comparable to the Christmas period in terms of consumer purchases and economic activity. It is traditionally a time when households purchase new clothing, home refurbishments, gifts, gold, jewellery, and other large purchases particularly as the festival is dedicated to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and such purchases are considered auspicious.
Other goods that are bought in substantial quantities during Diwali include confectionery and fireworks.
DID YOU KNOW?
Every year during Diwali, Indian forces approach their Pakistani counterparts at the border bearing gifts of traditional Indian confectionery, a gesture that is returned in kind by the Pakistani soldiers who give Pakistani sweets to the Indian soldiers.