Diwali, the festival of lights and fireworks, is celebrated throughout the country during Oct-Nov. People illuminate their houses with rows of earthen lamps to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. At night crackers are burst to celebrate the return of Lord Rama from exile.The legend goes that Lord Rama of Ayodhya, along with his wife Sita, was banished from his kingdom by his father King Dasharatha. After a 14 year exile and victory over the evil demon Ravana whom he killled, Rama returned to his beloved homeland and was welcomed warmly by his townfolk who turned up in large numbers to greet him and who lit up their homes with diyas ( small earthen lamps ) in his honor.
To commemorate this event, Diwali is celebrated with great joy and feasting and is considered the main festival of the Hindus. It is celebrated on the night of no-moon and is the start of the new year according to the Hindu calendar.
Preparations for Diwali start days in advance and the whole city is in a grip of the festive season. Houses and shops are given a fresh coat of paint. People decorate their homes, buy new clothes and jewelry, some also buy new utensils. Bazaars and streets are a riot of shimmer and shine with decorative buntings adorning them and twinkling electric lights gracing the facade. Many markets organize shopping bonanzas and lure customers with attractive festival discounts. People can be seen queuing up outside dry fruit and sweet shops as these are bought in abundance to be distributed among family and friends. Attractive gift hampers are also a popular buy. For ladies, this is the time for mehndi (henna), and they can be seen waiting their turn patiently in front of the plethora of mehndiwalas who miraculously pop up in dozens at every corner of the markets, big and small, to cater to the lovely dames who want to decorate their palms in the age old traditional way.
After dusk on Diwali night, goddess Lakshmi is worshipped and homes are lit up with rows of candles and diyas casting a mesmerizing effect over the city. The highlight of the celebrations, especially for kids, is the letting off of fire crackers which engulf the city in a blaze of light and of course -noise and smoke! However with awareness of the need to control pollution and the 'Silent Diwali' drive, the burning of fire-crackers has reduced considerably.
A word of caution though; if you are asthmatic, it would be recommended that you stay indoors this night to avoid any stress caused due to smoke in the atmosphere which tends to linger on till the next morning.