Diwali (Deepawali) is a significant festival in Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism, and one of the biggest festival of Hindus, celebrated with great enthusiasm and happiness in India.
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 is celebrated for five continuous days, where the third days is celebrated as the main Diwali festival or 'Festival of lights'.
In Hinduism, across many parts of India and Nepal, it is the homecoming of Rama after a 14-year exile in the forest and his victory over Ravana. .
In Jainism, Diwali marks the attainment of nirvana by Mahavira on 15 October, 527 BC.
Diwali has been significant in Sikhism since the illumination of the town of Amritsar commemorating the return of Guru Har Gobind Ji (1595-1644), the sixth Guru of Sikhism, who was imprisoned along with 52 other Hindu kings at Fort Gwalior by Emperor Jahangir. After freeing the other prisoners, he went to the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in the holy city of Amritsar, where he was welcomed happily by the people who lit candles and divas to greet the Guru. Because of this, Sikhs often refer to Diwali also as Bandi Chhorh Divas - "the day of release of detainees."
The festival is also celebrated by Buddhists in Nepal, a majority-Hindu country, particularly the Newar Buddhists.
In India and Nepal, Diwali is now considered to be a national festival, and the aesthetic aspect of the festival is enjoyed by most Indians and Nepalese regardless of faith. Kerala is the only state in India where Diwali is not a big celeberation.
On the day of Diwali, many wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks. Some North Indian business communities start their financial year on Diwali and new account books are opened on this day.
Different colorful varieties of fireworks are always associated with this festival. On this auspicious day, people light up diyas and candles all around their house. They perform Laxmi Puja in the evening and seek divine blessings of Goddess of Wealth. The festival od Diwali is never complete without exchange of gifts. People present diwali gifts to all near and dear ones.
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Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India and Nepal. Farmers are thankful for the plentiful bounty of the year gone by, and pray for a good harvest for the year to come. Traditionally this marked the closing of accounts for businesses dependent on the agrarian cycle, and the last major celebration before winter. The deity of Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead. There are two legends that associate the worship of Lakshmi on this day. According to the first legend, on this day, Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagar, the Ocean of Milk, during the great churning of the oceans, Samudra manthan. The second legend (more popular in western India) relates to the Vamana avatar of Vishnu, the incarnation he took to kill the demon king Bali. Thereafter it was on this day, that Vishnu came back to his abode, the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi on this day, get the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.
As per spiritual references, on this day "Lakshmi-panchayatan" enters the Universe. Sri Vishnu, Sri Indra, Sri Kuber, Sri Gajendra and Sri Lakshmi are elements of this "panchayatan" (a group of five). The tasks of these elements are:
* Vishnu: Happiness (happiness and satisfaction)
* Indra: Opulence (satisfaction due to wealth)
* Kubera: Wealth (Generosity; one who gives away wealth)
* Gajendra: Carries the wealth
* Lakshmi: Divine Energy (Shakti) which provides energy to all the above activities.