The name translates into "row of lamps". It involves the lighting of small clay lamps filled with oil to signify the triumph of good over evil. All the celebrants wear new clothes and share sweets and snacks with family members and friends.
It commemorates the return of Lord Rama, along with Sita and Lakshmana, from his 14-year-long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana. In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, the Capital of Rama, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas and burst firecrackers. The festival starts with Dhanteras on which most Indian business communities begin their financial year. The second day of the festival, Naraka Chaturdasi, marks the vanquishing of the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife Satyabhama. Amavasya, the third day of Deepawali, marks the worship of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth in her most benevolent mood, fulfilling the wishes of her devotees. Amavasya also tells the story of Lord Vishnu, who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the Bali, and banished him to Patala. It is on the fourth day of Deepawali, Kartika Shudda Padyami, that Bali went to patala and took the reins of his new kingdom in there. The fifth day is referred to as Yama Dvitiya (also called Bhai Dooj), and on this day sisters invite their brothers to their homes.
What's most interesting to me about this holiday is the number Christian Indians that celebrate it. Although it is most definitely a Hindu religious holiday in origin, Indians of all stripes celebrate it. Kind of reminds me of Christmas in America. We were invited to a Deepavali celebration at the house of a man named Balu. He works at Dalat and we were the only westerners there.
This is the worship temple inside their own home.
He collects antique Sitars.
We were also invited to a large community celebration with clowns, singers, dancers and TONS of food.
This is me with Natalie and her amah whose name is Prema.