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Happy Diwali! happy festival of lights!

If there is one country that knows how to celebrate it’s India [1] – and in the middle of the nation’s jam-packed festival calendar is Diwali, one of the most important Hindu festivals of the year. Diwali 2011 will begin on Wednesday Oct. 26, and preparations are already underway for the festivities.

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A woman lights an earthen lamp during the celebrations on the eve of the Hindu festival of Diwali in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. Lamps are traditionally used during Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of lights, to decorate homes

Broadly speaking, Diwali is India’s “Festival of Lights” and a joyous celebration that honors the triumph of good over evil.

Diwali falls on the new moon and lasts for five full days. It takes place on the propitious dates during the end of Ashvin and the start of Kartika – the Hindu lunar calendar months that equate to the Gregorian months of October and November.

The holiday is known as the “Festival of Lights” because of the common practice of lighting small oil lamps (called diyas) and placing them around the home, in courtyards, gardens, verandahs, on the walls and on roof tops.

Also known by the name Deepavali, the festival of Diwali is not only celebrated in India, but in Singapore, Malaysia, and across the globe. Diwali 2011 is an official holiday in India, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Fiji.

The name Deepavali itself means a string of lights, and the lights of the festival ward off the darkness of the night and bring light and joy into the world.

The Festival of Diwali symbolizes a change of season and a change of mood. While Diwali is predominantly celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains also embrace the celebration. Each religion has a different take on Diwali; however, one thing remains the same: Diwali is about joy, happiness and peace for all. The defeat of evil is celebrated with the bursting of firecrackers, exchange of sweets, and generally merriment with friends and families.

Continue reading in ibtimes [3]