Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs; one of the most popular holidays in South Asia. Extending over five days, it marks the beginning of the new year in the Vikrama calendar, and usually falls in October or November. Though the holiday celebrates many things depending on the religious tradition, it is associated with the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and understanding over ignorance; small earthenware oil lamps are lighted and placed in rows at the tops of buildings and floated on the Ganges and other bodies of water. In Hinduism it welcomes Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and is also associated with a number of legends, e.g., the return of Rama and Sita from exile, Rama's killing of the demon Ravana, and Krishna's slaying of the demon Narakaasura. Jains commemorate Mahavira's attainment of moksha (nirvana); the establishment of the Khalsa and other events marked by Sikhs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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