Diwali (also called Deepavali) has been celebrated in India since ancient times and is the biggest, most important holiday of the year. Diwali means ‘Festival of Lights’, the name being derived from the rows of clay lamps placed outside homes to symbolize the inner light that protects people from spiritual darkness. It takes place in either October or November, and is celebrated by each of the country’s main faiths, all of which view it as a festival marking the triumph of good over evil. Hindus see it as a celebration of gods defeating demons. For Sikhs, it marks the day the Sixth Sikh Gura, Guru Hargobind Ji, got out of prison, for Jains, the spiritual awakening (nirvana) of Lord Mahavira, and for Buddhists, the day Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism.
Diwali lasts for five days, the first day being the on which housewives clean house. On day two, houses are decorated with clay lamps and coloured powders or sand laid out in a special pattern. Day three, the main day of the festival, is for family gatherings devoted to prayer, feasting, and fireworks. Day four marks the first day of the New Year, and involves visits from family and friends to exchange gifts and good wishes. On the last day, married women greet visiting brothers with food.
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