Diwali (or Deepavali – meaning “row of lights” in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language) is the Indian “festival of lights”. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
Celebrations and observances vary depending on the region. For many people, Diwali honors the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The lights and lamps are said to help Lakshmi find her way into people’s homes, bringing prosperity in the year to come. In northern India, Hindus celebrate the return of Lord Rama and Sita to the city of Ayodhya, after defeating the evil king Ravana! In the region of Bengal people worship the goddess Kali, the destroyer of evil forces, during Diwali. And in the South, people celebrate Lord Krishna’s victory over the wicked king Narakaasura. Though primarily a Hindu festival, variations of Diwali are also celebrated by adherents of other faiths.
But Diwali is not just about lights and legends – it is a time to have fun with friends and family. People decorate their homes with rangolis (an art form in which patterns are created on the floor and decorated with colorful powders, sand, flour or flowers), illuminate their homes with oil lamps and lanterns, wear new clothes, enjoy fireworks, make delicious sweets and snacks and exchange gifts with friends, family and neighbors.
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Diwali isn’t just a popular festival in India, but it has become one of the most recognized and celebrated Indian festival outside of India as well!