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Diwali (also spelled Devali in certain regions) or Deepavali, popularly known as the "festival of lights", is celebrated between mid-October

and midNovember for different reasons. For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year and is celebrated in families by performing traditional activities together in their homes. For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of moksha or nirvana by Mahavira in 527 BC Deepavali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana,Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji.

The name "Diwali" is a contraction of "Deepavali" (Sanskrit: Dpval), which translates into "row of lamps. Diwali involves the lighting of small clay lamps (diyas or dpas) in Sanskrit:) filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. During Diwali, all the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.

The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival, Naraka Chaturdasi, marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the third day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the Bali, and banished him to Patala. It is on the fourth day of Deepawali,Kartika Shudda Padyami, that Bali went to patala and took the reins of his new kingdom in there. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.

While the story behind Deepavali and the manner of celebration varies from region to region (festive fireworks, worship, lights, sharing of sweets), the essence is the same to rejoice in the Inner Light (Atman) or the underlying Reality of all things (Brahman).

Diwali falls on the one new moon night between mid-October and mid-November. Deepavali is celebrated for five days according to the lunisolar Hindu Calendar. It begins in late Ashvin (between September and October) and ends in early Kartika(between October and November). The first day is Dhan Teras. The last day is Yama Dvitiya, which signifies the second day of the light half of Kartika. Each day of Deepavali marks one celebration of the six principal stories associated with the festival.[6]

Sikhs celebrate Diwali for a number of reasons; -Sikhs celebrate Diwali after celebration of Bandi Chhorh Divas. Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhorh Divas to mark the return of the Sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, who was freed from imprisonment and also managed to release 52 Hindu Kings (political prisoners) at the same time from the famous fort of Gwalior by making clever use of Emperor Jahangir's orders to allow any who could hold on to the Gurus coat tails to leave the fort with the Guru (October, 1619).And so the Kings/rajahs were freed and the Guru became known popularly as the "Bandi Chhor" (Deliverer from prison). He arrived at Amritsar on the Diwali day and the HarMandar (also known as the "Golden Temple") was lit with hundreds of lamps to celebrate his return and hence the day came to be known as the "Bandi Chhor Divas" (the day of freedom)

An important Sikh event associated with Diwali is the martyrdom of the elderly Sikh scholar and strategist Bhai Mani Singh in 1737. Bhai Mani Singh was the Granthi (keeper/reader of Sikh scripture) of Harmandir Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple). He transcribed the final version of Guru Granth Sahib dictated to him by Guru Gobind Singh in 1704. Bhai Mani Singh assumed charge of Harmandir Sahib's management in 1708. In 1737, he received permission from Zakariya Khan, the then Mughal governor of Punjab, to hold a religious gathering of the Khalsa for celebrating Bandi Chhorh Diwas on the auspicious day of Diwali for a large tax of 5000 Rupees. He expected to put together the required sum from contribution made by the Sikhs who would assemble that day. But on discovered Zakariya Khan's plot to kill the Sikhs during the gathering, he sent out messages warning them not to turn up for the meeting. As a result the tax could not be paid and Zakariya Khan ordered Bhai Mani Singh's execution at Lahore.

Hindus have several significant events associated with Diwali: The return of Rama after 14 years of Vanvas (banishment). To welcome his return, diyas (ghee lamps) were lit in rows of 20. The killing of Narakasura: Celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi, one day before Deepavali, it commemorates the killing of the evil demon Narakasura, who wreaked havoc. Krishna's wife Satyabhama killed Narakasura during the Dwapara yuga. In another version of the belief, the demon was killed by Krishna or Krishna provoked his wife Satyabhama to kill Narshna, defeating Indra. Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Deepavali and is the day Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain. According to the story, Krishna saw preparations for an annual offering to Lord Indra and asked his father Nanda about it. He debated with the villagers about what their 'dharma' truly was. They were farmers, they should do their duty and concentrate on farming and protection of their cattle. He said that all human beings should do their 'karma' to the best of their ability and not pray for natural phenomenon. The villagers were convinced by Krishna, and did not proceed with the special puja (prayer). Indra was then angered, and flooded the village. Krishna liftedMount Govardhan and held it up to protect the people and cattle from the rain. Indra finally accepted defeat and recognized Krishna as supreme. Although this aspect of Krishna's life is sometimes ignored[citation needed] it sets up the basis of the 'karma' philosophy later detailed in the Bhagavat Gita.

Deepavali celebrations are spread over five days, from Dhanteras to Bhaiduj. In some places like Maharashtra it starts with Vasu Baras.[8] All the days except Diwali are named according to their designation in the Hindu calendar. The days are: Govatsa Dwadashi or Vasu Baras (27 Ashvin or 12 Krishna Paksha Ashvin): Go means cow and vatsa means calf. Dwadashi or Baras means the 12th day. On this day the cow and calf are worshiped. The story associated with this day is that of King Prithu, son of the tyrant King Vena. Due to the ill rule of Vena, there was a terrible famine and earth stopped being fruitful. Prithu chased the earth, who is usually represented as cow, and milked her, meaning that he brought prosperity to the land

JAINISM

Diwali has a very special significance in Jainism, just like Buddha Purnima, the date of Buddha'sNirvana, is for Buddhists as Easter is for Christians. Lord Mahavira, the last of the Jain Tirthankarofthis era, attained Nirvana or Moksha on this day at Pavapuri on Oct. 15, 527 BC, on Chaturdashi of Kartika, as Tilyapannatti of Yativrashaba from the sixth century states: Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of this era, revitalised Jainism Dharma followed by Jains even today. Though few outdated history books still mention that he established Jainism. According to tradition, the chief disciple of Mahavira, Ganadhara Gautam Swami also attained complete knowledge (Kevalgyana) on this day, thus making Diwali one of the most important Jain festivals

Mahavira attained his nirvana at the dawn of the amavasya (new moon). According to theKalpasutra by Acharya Bhadrabahu, 3rd century BC, many gods were present there, illuminating the darkness.[11] The following night was pitch black without the light of the gods or the moon. To symbolically keep the light of their master's knowledge alive:

Tamil Nadu

In Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Deepavali they celebrate this by lighting deepams, bursting fireworks, wearing new clothes and sharing sweets. A traditional visit to the Temple is a significant ritual of the day. The city Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu is the capital of Indias firework industry with about 8,000 factories, producing 90 percent of the country's total fireworks output. It also has the world's largest fireworks manufacturing unit. The entire house is cleaned and new clothes are purchased for the entire family which is followed by lighting of oil lamps around the house and bursting firecrackers.

Karnataka It is celebrated as Narakachaturdashi in Karnataka. The entire house is cleaned and new clothes are purchased for the entire family which is followed by lighting of oil lamps around the house and bursting firecrackers. The celebration of Diwali is marked by the lighting of innumerable lamps in every courtyard and the bursting of crackers. Sweetmeals, new clothes and spirit is there as in other festivals. The time for rejoicing is mainly early morning and late night. These hours of darkness bordering the waking hours are preferred as lights and crackers are the highlights of the festivities and these need darkness to have their illuminating effect. Hence people rise early and go late to sleep.

Kerala Deepavali falls on the preceding day of the New Moon in the Malayalam month Thulam (OctoberNovember). The celebrations are based on the legend of Narakasura Vadha - where Sri Krishna destroyed the demon and the day Narakasura died is celebrated as Deepavali. It commemorates the triumph of good over evil. It's celebrated with more enthusiasm in the northern parts of Kerala compared with southern Kerala. Fire-crackers are bursted and Ottamthullal performances are hosted. Exchanges of gifts and dresses are usually held. Especially on the 4th day of celebration, the ladies are invited to their father's house on the 4th day after the 'Deepavali' and given dress and money as gifts.

Andhra Pradesh In Northern India, Diwali is usually celebrated during the evenings with fireworks and diyas. However, in Andhra Pradesh, the festivities start out at the crack of dawn and carry on well into the night. Most people make a trip to the local temple along with their families to seek the blessings of their respective Gods. The night sky is lit up with a scintillating array of noisy fireworks.

Maharashtra In Maharashtra, Diwali starts from Vasubaras which is the 12th day of the 2nd half of the Marathi month Ashvin. This day is celebrated by performing an Aarti of the cow and its calf - which is a symbol of love between mother and her baby. The next day is Dhana Trayodashi. This day is of special importance for traders and business people. It is also considered an auspicious day for making important purchases, especially metals, including kitchenware and precious metals like silver and gold. This is followed by Naraka Chaturdashi. On this day people get up early in the morning and take their bath before sunrise while stars are still visible. Bathing is an elaborate process on this day with abundant use of ubtans, oils and perfumes, and is preceded by an Aarti performed on the person by some lady, usually mother or wife. The whole process is referred to as abhyanga-snaan.

Orissa Deepavali is celebrated with great joy. Rows of oil lamps, candles adorn the thresholds of all houses. Firecrackers are burst, sweetmeals are relished and distributed. Some people also worship family goddess. Tarpanam is done in the morning of deepavali. All the members of the household gather together just after dusk. A RANGOLI of a sailboat is made on the ground. The boat has seven chambers in north,ten chamber in east,and twelve chamber in south.the east chamber are meant for gods.north chamber for seer or Rishi and south chambers for manes and forefathers. Over the drawing of each different chamber several items are kept - cotton, mustard, salt, asparagus root,

West Bengal & Assam

Kali Puja in Kolkata and Assam. Kali Puja is light-up night for West Bengal & Assam, corresponding to the festival of Diwali (pronounced Dipaboli in Bengali), where people light candles in memory of the souls of departed ancestors. The goddess Kali is worshipped for whole night on one night during this festival. This is also a night of fireworks, with local youth burning sparklers and firecrackers throughout the night