Diwali symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”. It is celebrated to commemorate the return of Lord Rama to Ayodhya after an exile of fourteen years.
Lord Rama returned to his hometown Ayodhya after staying in exile for fourteen long years. He was accompanied by his brother Lakshman and wife Sita. Sita was abducted by the demon, Ravana. She was kept as a hostage in his kingdom until Lord Rama defeated him and brought her back. As Lord Rama, Lakshman and Sita returned to Ayodhya, the people were thrilled and excited.
The word ‘Diwali’ is derived from the Sanskrit ‘Deepavali’, meaning “row or series of lights”. The festivities begin two days before amāsvasya, on Dhanteras, and extends two days after, the second day of the first fortnight of the month of Kartik.
A day before Diwali is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi, the day when Lord Vishnu killed Narakasura. In the Dwapara Yuga, Krishna had killed the evil King Narakasura who had captivated 16000 women. After killing the evil King, Lord Krishna released all these women.
During the celebration, people start cleaning up, renovating and decorating their homes and workplaces. On the exact day of Diwali people illuminate their homes with ‘diyas’, offer puja to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth, draw rangoli outside the home, burst crackers, and distribute homely-made sweets among the neighbours.
The festival culminates on the day of ‘Bhai Duj’. It signifies the brother-sister bonding similarly like the Raksha Bandhan. On this occasion, brothers travel to meet their sisters and present them with gifts and sweets.