Rituals: Diwali is considered as a festival of lights signifying victory of Divine forces over wicked elements, and ushering in new prosperity and wealth. It is celebrated in a row of five days commencing from the last three days of the dark fortnight of Ashwin and ending on the first two days of the bright fortnight of Kartik (October-November).
The first day is known as Dhanteras, the second day is known as Narak Chaturdi or Roop Chaturdhi or Choti Diwali. The next day is the proper Diwali, also known as Deepavali. On this day people put on new dresses after an early bath; houses, community centers, and temples are decorated with Rangolis and colored lights, divas and candle lights; Pujas are performed for Lakshmi, Vishnu, Ganesh and other gods. On the fourth day sweets and a variety of food items are prepared and distributed. Employers present gifts to their employees.
The fifth day is known as Bhayya Dhuj when brothers visit married sister’s houses and offer gifts and receive sweets in exchange for their continued love and attachment. This is a major festival celebrated throughout India with great zeal and enthusiasm, even with slight variations in concepts and methodologies in different parts, but the central theme of the Divine Light removing darkness on earth and increasing socio-religious bonds between people.
Legend & Stories : The origin and celebration of the Deepavali festival seems to date back to many yugas, during the period of the Vamana Avatar, Lord Vishnu, as Vamana, pushed down the head of the demon king Bali with his cosmic foot, to remain in Patala Lok, and helped the Devathas to remain safe in Indra Lok. Later when the ocean was churned for Amrit (nectar), Goddess Lakshmi was manifested during the process and married Lord Vishnu; the event symbolized the advent of prosperity and wealth.
During the Ram Avatar period, Rama returned victoriously to Ayodya from an exile of 14 years after killing the ten-headed Ravana, (the full story of Rama is described in Chapter 5 under “Royals of Ayodhya”) during the Krishna Avatar period, Lord Krishna is said to have killed the most menacing demon Narkasura, the wicked son of Bhumi, and restored all the stolen property of the Devathas.
In modern history King Vikramaditya is reported to have started a new era on this day and so the tradition of opening new account books seems to have originated. On this day, seasons also change and new harvest ushers in wealth and prosperity. For Jains this day is auspicious because Lord Mahavir had attained Eternal Bliss.
More recently some observe this day as sacred because Swami Dayanand Saraswati, founder of the great Hindu renaissance movement Arya Samaj passed into Eternity. Thus in all events the challenge of some liberating powers (Lights) is manifested to erase the darkness of ignorance and evil bringing joy, prosperity and wealth to all.