Diwali or Deepavali (Deepa = lamps, Vali = row), popularly known as the "festival of lights", is a festival celebrated between mid-October and mid-December every year. For Hindus, Diwali is one of the most important festivals of the year. As the name suggests, the festival is celebrated by people placing rows of oil lamps at night in front of their homes. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and light above darkness.
It is believed that on this holy day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya from his 14-year exile with Sita and Lakshmana. Diwali is also believed to be the day that marks the return of the Pandavas from their 13-year exile (12 years and one more year in disguise). This year Diwali begins 28 th October onwards in India.
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 the big three Vishnu, the incarnation he assumed to kill the demon king Bali. On this day, Vishnu came back to his abode the Vaikuntha; so those who worship Lakshmi receive the benefit of her benevolent mood, and are blessed with mental, physical and material well-being.
Diwali is celebrated in India over a period of 5 days. The first day is Dhanteras where Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped to bestow good fortune upon her devotees. The second day is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi which commemorates the triumph of Lord Krishna and his wife Satybhama over the evil demon Narakasura. The Lakshmi Puja (3 rd Day) is considered to be the most important day of the festival. Homes are cleaned and puja is performed during the pradosh kaal in the evening to impress Goddess Lakshmi to bless them with prosperity and a long blessed life. Rangolis are carved outside homes and diyas are lit followed by the bursting of beautiful and bright firecrackers at night. The final two days, Padwa and Bhaidooj, focus on the sacred bonds in family between a husband and wife (Padwa) and brothers and sisters (Bhaidooj).
Diwali marks the end of the harvest season in most of India. Farmers give thanks for the 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 is the last major celebration before winter. Lakshmi symbolizes wealth and prosperity, and her blessings are invoked for a good year ahead.
Hence the importance of family, prosperity and longevity amidst the beautiful fireworks that engulf it make Diwali a very special festival in India.