This is one of the oldest Hindu festivals occurring in the month of Kartik, which commemorates the return of Rama to Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. It also marks the beginning of the New Year and is celebrated with the lighting of lamps.
In Sanskrit Diwali is written as dipavali, “dipa” is a lamp and “avali” means a row. So dipavali is literally a row of lamps. Today in many Western countries Diwali has become famous as The Festival of Lights. Hindus will string lights around their houses and temples. Diwali is always celebrated on the new moon night at the end of the month of Aashwini. There are numerous interpretations regarding the origins of this famous festival, but the one I prefer connects to the Nava Ratri and Vijaya Dashami festivals. After killing Ravan on the 10th lunar day (Vijaya Dashami), Rama returns to Ayodhya, his capital, on the following new moon (amavashya) night. Diwali comes exactly twenty days after Vijaya Dashami. Since there is no moon on that day, the residents of Ayodhya are said to have illuminated the city by placing lamps on their homes and other building eager for Rama’s return. Hence the name Diwali. Other interpretations have to do with Krishna defeating the demon Narakasura, or in honor of the day Bali went to rule the nether-world according to the order of Vishnu. In all cases Diwali is the celebration of good conquering evil and the bringing of light back into the world. On the day of Diwali, many devotees wear new clothes, share sweets and snacks, and light firecrackers. Some North Indian business communities start their financial year on Diwali and so open their new business books on this day.
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