The Festival Of Lights
Diwali, or the "festival of lights" is celebrated by Hindus across India and the huge Hindu diaspora spread all over the world with great fervor and enthusiasm between late October and November. It's their most important festival in the annual calendar.
Diwali is basically spread over five days with each day signifying a particular aspect of the festival. The five days are:
Day 1: Dhanteras
Day 2: Choti Diwali
Day 3: Lakshmi Puja / Diwali
Day 4: Padwa & Govardhan Puja
Day 5: Bhai Duj
Symbolically, according to the Indian epic Ramayana, the festival marks the homecoming of Lord Ram (who is worshipped as a deity in India) along with his wife Sita and brother Laxman after spending 14 years in exile.
According to legend, the people of Ayodhya celebrated his return by lighting earthen lamps called "diyas" throughout their house (There was no electricity way back then and earthen diyas/candles were the only source of light).
The illumination signifies the uplifting of darkness and the spread of light, joy and happiness throughout the house. Since then, the lighting of clay lamps, candles or even strings of electric bulbs throughout the home is a must in every Hindu household to signify the lifting of spiritual darkness as symbolized by the return of Lord Ram.
Beautiful design patterns called "rangoli" made of colored powder or flowers decorate the doorways and welcome the Gods into the house.
Diwali also means the worship of the Indian Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi and the God of Good Fortune, Lord Ganesha who brings wealth and prosperity to the home.
It is believed that Lord Ram chose this auspicious day to return home from his long exile, after defeating the demon lord Ravan in a long drawn battle. Diwali is also the time for families to get together and this is one time in the year when even scattered families try and make it home to celebrate the festival with their near and dear ones.
Every family member from the young to the old is an enthusiastic participant in this festival as crackers are burst and the sky illuminated with thousands of fireworks. New clothes are bought, gifts exchanged and sumptuous feasts are laid out in every household.
This is one occasion where the distribution and exchange of sweets is a must in every household and piles and piles of sweets are cooked or bought for this purpose. Diwali is also a handy excuse to really gorge on food as people visit each others homes and are plied with food and sweets.
This unique festival is all about light, noise, mirth, ebullience, joy and giving to the less fortunate. It is the most awaited festival in India and along with its religious connotations Diwali is a time for unshackled revelry and fun.
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