Hindus celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, mainly by lighting earthenware oil lamps called diyas and placing them around temples, homes and businesses or setting them to float upon bodies of water. They also clean their homes, wear festive new clothes, exchange gifts of sweets and dried fruits, set off fireworks, start new business account books, open their doors and windows to admit prosperity, and indulge in gambling.
Diwali lasts for five days, usually from late October to early November. The exact days are calculated according to the Hindu lunar calendar. Each day has special significance and accompanying ceremonies, and the fourth day, according to the Vikrama calendar, is the start of the lunar month Karttika and the first day of the new year.
The legends accompanying the festival vary in different parts of India. In northern India and some other places, the legend celebrates Rama's return from exile after defeating Ravana and Rama's being crowned king. In Gujarat, people honor Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. In Bengal, the goddess Kali is worshipped. In Nepal, people remember Lord Krishna's victory over the demon Narakaasura. For the Jains, the day commemorates Mahavira's passing into nirvana. The Sikhs celebrate Guru Hargobind's return to Amritsar. In every part of India, however, Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.