Joined August 2009

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Yesterday night we celebrated the most important Indian festival-Diwali or festival of lights.

Diwali——the Hindu festival of lights, is the most popular of all the festivals in India, Diwali or Dīpāvali is a significant festival in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism. Adherents of these religions celebrate Diwali as the Festival of Lights. They light diyas—cotton string wicks inserted in small clay pots filled with oil—to signify victory of good over the evil within an individual. The festival of Diwali extends over five days. Because of the lights, fireworks, and sweets involved, it’s a great favorite with children.

A row of lights:
The name of the festival comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali, meaning row of lights. Diwali is known as the ‘festival of lights’ because houses, shops, and public places are decorated with small earthenware oil lamps called diyas. These lamps, which are traditionally fueled by mustard oil, are placed in rows in windows, doors and outside buildings to decorate them. The lamps are lit to help the goddess Lakshmi(Goddess of wealth) find her way into people’s homes. On the day of Diwali / Deepavali, many wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks.

In Hinduism, across many parts of India it is the homecoming of Rama after a 14-year exile in the forest and his victory over Ravana. In the legend, the people of Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) welcomed Rama by lighting rows (avali) of lamps (dĭpa), thus its name: dīpāwali.

Fireworks are also a big part of the Diwali celebrations, although in recent years there has been a move against them because of noise and atmospheric pollution.

Lakshmi puja:
For hinuds the festival honours Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Special prayers are held in evening(it’s the most important ritual of Diwali)—people worship Goddess Lakshmi. People start the new business year at Diwali, and some Hindus will say prayers to the goddess for a successful year. Some business communities start their financial year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.

Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open so that Lakshmi can come in. Rangoli are drawn on the floors – rangoli are patterns and the most popular subject is the lotus flower. This because images of Lakshmi traditionally show her either holding a lotus or sitting on one. There is much feasting and celebration, and the Diwali lamps are regarded as making it easy for Lakshmi to find her way to houses.

Like Christmas in the West, Diwali is very much a time for buying and exchanging gifts. Traditionally sweets and dried fruit were very common gifts to exchange, but the festival has become a time for serious shopping-clothes, electronics, cars, two wheelers, gold, silver, kitchen utensils, etc etc. Shops are flooded with people on the eve of festival. It is also best time of year to redecorate home.

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