Diwali is a very important Indian festival. It is celebrated across the nation with great fanfare. Also called the “Festival of Lights”,  is a 5-day celebration. On this occasion, friends and families reunite, light earthen lamps (diyas) in their homes, feast on sweets, exchange gifts, burn firecrackers and play cards and games. The festival falls on ‘Amavasya’ (no moon night) and signals the beginning of a New Year. It marks a period of new beginnings as the belief is that visits the houses of devotees at midnight and blesses them with happiness and wealth. The festival of Diwali indicates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil, it is called the festival of lights.

The history of Diwali goes back to ancient India. Many legends talk about the origin of this festival. Some say it celebrates the marriage of Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) with Lord Vishnu. Other legends claim it’s the birthday of Lakshmi. But the most popular belief is that Diwali celebrates the return of Lord Rama from his 14-year exile, along with his wife, Goddess Sita and his brother, Lakshmana, to his kingdom,Ayodhya. It is said that, to display their joy over his return, the people of Ayodhya lit up the entire kingdom with earthen diyas. Thus, the festival of lights came into being.

Diwali is an Indian festival that is celebrated by people of different religions, regions and cultures. It is not just Hindus, but Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists too celebrate it. To Hindus, Diwali signifies the return of Lord Rama to his hometown Ayodhya after defeating Ravana, the demon king of Lanka after 14 years of exile in the forests. To Jains, the festival is the day Mahavira, their last Tirthankara on earth, attained enlightenment or Nirvana. For the Buddhists, Diwali is the day Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism, repelled by the bloodlust of war. The Sikh community celebrates the festival to commemorate the homecoming of their Guru, Har Gobind Ji from the prison of Emperor Jahangir along with many other Hindu gurus.

Each of the  has a different significance as per Hindu mythology. Dhanteras, the first day of Diwali, signifies for Hindus, the beginning of the new financial year. The second day is Chhoti Diwali which is celebrated to commemorate the victory of Lord Krishna over Naraka, the demon king. Diwali is celebrated on the third day. On this day, Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped as it is her birthday. She was born during the process of Samudra Manthan. Govardhan Pooja is performed on the fourth day of Diwali and it celebrates the victory of Lord Vishnu over the demon king Bali and also the victory of Lord Krishna over God Indra. On the fifth day which is also the last day, Bhai Dooj is celebrated. It celebrates the love and affection between brothers and sisters.

 Houses are cleaned and decorated with lights, flowers and diyas. These symbolize the bright promise of the new year. They make the entire atmosphere radiant and cheer the spirits. Women also draw colorful Rangolis at the entrance and courtyards of houses to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.

 Bursting firecrackers is a must on Diwali. They include Phooljhadis, patatakas, chaklis, etc. which light up the sky in a dazzling burst of colors.

 This is an important ritual on Diwali. People offer prayers to Goddess Lakshmi for a year filled with joy, wealth and prosperity. They light an oil lamp (diya) before the idol and offer prayers (aarti) including hymns and chants praising the goddess. They also clean the idol with gangajal or milk and water, apply kumkum and haldi and offer sweets, flowers and coconut to the goddess.

 On the day of Dhanteras, people go shopping for gifts for their relatives and friends. This is an important tradition for Diwali.

 Like most other festivals, feasting is a part of Diwali also. Families often prepare and share sweets like laddoos, jalebis, Gujia, Kaju-kathli, halwa, kheer and barfis. Besides these, savory snacks, pakoras or fritters, samosas, etc. are served.

This year, the festival of Diwali will fall on, a Sunday.