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Deepavali also known as Diwali, literally means "row or garland of lights". Locally, it has been called "The Festival of Lights". It is symbolic of victory of good over evil, celebrated by most Hindus the world over. It highlights the victory of Lord Krishna, one of the deities of the Hindu pantheon, over the Demon King, Narakasura. It usually falls around late October or early November on the new moon day.

The Legend

Legend has it that Narakasura, the king of demons, had tortured the common folk. After many years of hardship, the people, unable to bear the suffering, appealed to Lord Krishna who then declared war against the demon king. As he lay dying, the demon king begged for mercy from Lord Krishna and he asked that the people rejoice and be merry at the anniversary of his death as a reminder that ultimately evil will never triumph. Little clay lamps were then lighted as a sign of gratitude to Lord Krishna.

Some Hindus believe that Deepavali is celebrated to mark the return of Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after being banished from Ayodhya by his stepmother for a period of 14 years.

Deepavali Preparations

Preparations start weeks before with the spring cleaning of the home. New clothes are bought and women take great pains to make cakes, sweetmeats and other tidbits, the favourite being murukku. Hindus also believe that departed souls return during this time. So, favourite foods of the departed along with new clothes are placed on banana leaves before the photographs of the departed and prayers done.


Early in the morning, the Hindus will have the traditional oil bath. The body is rubbed and massaged from head to toe with gingelly oil that is extracted from fermented sesame seeds. When all the members have had their bath and don their new clothes, special prayers are held at the family altar. Decorative designs or rice flour paintings with intricate designs are usually done by womenfolk on the floor at the entrances of homes. Hindus also make it a point to visit temples early in the morning to receive the blessings of Lord Krishna and the Goddess of Wealth. Then it is time for either visiting friends or receiving them. At night, children play with sparklers and are allowed to light clay lamps and display them along the window ledges or doorways.

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