Diwali is the biggest Hindu holiday of the year. It has great cultural and religious significance to Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains, in India and throughout the world.
For many, it is considered the Hindu New Year, because it is the time when the light of knowledge and justice returned to a land that had been subdued by the darkness of ignorance and wrongdoing for a very long time.
Loosely translated, Diwali means Festival of Lights in Sanskrit. After cleaning their homes thoroughly, Hindus decorate them with small earthen oil lamps, called diyas. They also create rangoli and burn firecrackers. Some people buy new clothes to wear and replace old metal kitchen utensils with new ones. Gifts of traditional Indian sweets, precious gems, gold, and silver, are exchanged with friends and relatives.
Technically, Diwali is celebrated over a period of five days. However, many Hindus only celebrate it on the third day, the day dedicated to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, Prosperity, and Longevity. Home and community temples are refurbished and decorated. Diyas are lit, and elaborate prayer ceremonies are performed. After partaking in the Blessed Food, people sing songs, play games, and feast together.