Deepawali or Diwali, popular of all Hindu festivals, is a festival of lights, a symbol of the victory of righteousness. The word `Deepawali’ means rows of diyas (clay lamps).
Being a family festival, it is celebrated 20 days after Dussehra, on the 13th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Asvin (October-November) Diwali commemorates Lord Rama’s return to his kingdom Ayodhya after completing the 14-year exile.
Bright oil lamps or diyas light up every home and firework displays are widespread all over the country. The goddess Lakshmi (consort of Vishnu), a symbol of wealth and prosperity, is also worshipped on this day.
This festive occasion also marks the start of the Hindu New Year. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the icon of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day.
Deepawali is also meant to celebrate the destruction of the arrogant tyrant Bali by Vishnu when the latter appeared in his Vamana (dwarf) avatar.
The occasion of Deepawali is the ideal time for cleaning, whitewashing houses and painting decorative designs or rangolis on floors and walls. New clothes are bought on this day and family members get together, to offer prayers, distribute sweets and light up their homes.
In West Bengal, the Deepawali festival is celebrated as Kali Puja and Kali, Siva’s consort, is worshipped on this day.