Today, Hindus around the world celebrate Diwali, a festival of light. Jains and Sikhs will also mark the day, with all three religions celebrating the common theme of the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
In the run-up to the festival Hindus will have cleaned their homes and will tonight dress in their finest clothes (often bought especially for the occasion) and will light diyas (special lamps) in their homes. They may also decorate the floors of their homes with rangoli (decorative patterns created using coloured rice or powder). Here in the UK, the city of Leicester will host Europe’s biggest Diwali celebrations, with firework displays, dancing and a huge Ferris wheel.
The various traditions surrounding Diwali vary from region to region, but perhaps the most well-known story comes from the Indian epic, the Ramayana. Many view Diwali as the celebration of the god Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana from a 14-year exile, with the lit diyas intended to guide them home. Others see Diwali as the celebration of the goddess Lakshmi, who was born and married on Diwali Day.
Thanks to this association with Lakshmi, who is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, the two-week festival is highly commercialised in India and Indian communities worldwide. This is a time where many people head to the shops, to buy new clothes and gifts for family and friends. It is also seen as an auspicious time to start a business.
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