India celebrates Diwali, the Hindu festival of light on Wednesday. Diwali marks the triumph of light over darkness and the beginning of the Hindu new year when it is believed the Hindu god Rama returned to his capital city of Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. Diwali, means “row of lamps” in Sanskrit.
Dates for Diwali vary each year depending on the lunar calendar. Indians celebrate the festival by lighting earthen lamps, eating sweets, exchanging gifts and setting off fireworks.
Indians worship the Hindu deity Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, during the festival. Ancient Hindu texts suggest that on the main day of festival, which this year is Wednesday, the goddess descends on to Earth looking for the cleanest household to bestow her blessings. Devotees light clay lamps, or ‘diyas,’ to welcome Lakshmi into the house.
Celebrations also include bursting firecrackers. In recent years, anti-noise campaigners say the noise firecrackers make has reduced. Click here to find out more about Diwali getting quieter in India.
The deity Kuber is also worshiped during the festival. He is regarded as the treasurer among Hindu gods and his presence is to help those who are good at earning money but not so good at saving it. During the worship of Goddess Lakshmi Puja, the deities Lakshmi, Kuber and Vishnu are offered a mixture of coagulated cow’s milk, sugar, cardamom and cloves.
Celebrations for Diwali last for five days culminating with Bhai Dooj (also known as Bhaubeej, Bhai Tika or Bhai Phota depending on what part of India you’re in) a festival similar to Raksha Bandhan, which celebrates the relationship between brothers and sisters. Sisters pray for health and prosperity of their brothers and mark their foreheads with colored powder.