Deepavali, the Festival of Lights is one of the oldest Hindu festivals celebrated in the month of Kartikai. This year it falls on Wednesday, 26th October.
The Deepavali festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance, although the actual legends that go with the festival are different for different communities.
The Times of India summed up the modern meaning of Deepavali as follows.
"Regardless of the mythological explanation one prefers, what the festival of lights really stands for today is a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a religiously sanctioned celebration of the simple - and some not so simple - joys of life."
Deepavali, literally 'an array of lamps', is celebrated on the darkest night of Kartikai. The celebrations include the lighting of lamps and bursting of crackers. Friends and neighbours exchange special sweets. People buy new clothes and in fact, for some it is absolutely essential to wear new clothes on this day.
Preparations for the festival begin many days prior to Deepavali. It is time for a thorough cleaning of the house, for the belief is that Lakshmi will enter clean and nicely decorated houses. The scientific reason is that the monsoon is a time for insects and fungus to breed. With the end of the monsoon in Indian sub continent, homes need to be cleaned and painted, and belongings aired and dried before the onset of winter.
During Deepavali people pray to Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth, light, prosperty and wisdom, but also to God Ganesha, the 'Remover of Obstacles' or the 'Lord of Beginnings'.