The Diwali Hindu Festival of Lights is celebrated in the cities of Jaipur, Varanasi, Amritsar, Goa, Mumbai and other cities in India. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Kathmandu, Nepal are some cities in Asia where Diwali celebrations are held. Salt Lake City, Utah is one of several United States cities where Diwali is celebrated.
Diwali is an abbreviated version of the word “Deepawali,” which means a row of clay lamps and refers to the many oil lamps, electric lights and bonfires that are typical of the annual festival. Dates of the festival vary according to the Hindu calendar but always happen in October or November.
Diwali festivities continue for five days and nights. It is the beginning of the Hindu new year and the start of the fiscal year in India. The festival commemorates Lord Rama's conquest of the demon king, Ravana. The holiday also commemorates the coronation of ancient King Vikramaditya and the birthday of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth.
In the days leading up to Diwali, celebrants clean their houses, pay off debts and purchase new clothes. In some cities, statues of the goddess Lakshmi are paraded in the streets. Special foods are served to guests, and children wear garlands of flowers and colorful floral headdresses. In India, Diwali is a government holiday, and most public offices are closed during the festival.
The Diwali Festival of Lights is celebrated by countless Hindus, Jains and Sikhs worldwide. Some Buddhist sects celebrate the holiday, as well.