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See the Best Photos of Diwali, the Festival of Lights

2 minute read

Across India and around the world today, millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains gather to celebrate Diwali, the five day festival of lights. Beliefs vary significantly across different regions and sects, but the holiday – celebrated in India for more than a millennium – generally marks the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit deepavali, which means a row of lights.

According to Hindu mythology, the festival’s origins can be traced back to the legend of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana who returned to the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya after a 14-year-exile. On that dark night, villagers lit small clay lamps (known as diyas) to illuminate their path and to honor Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana.

The festival still centers on the darkest, new moon night at the end of the Hindu lunar month of Ashvin, which this year falls on Nov. 11. For many in the Hindu community, Diwali marks the beginning of a new year.

To celebrate, people dress in new clothes and decorate their homes with rangoli, patterns created on the ground using colored rice or powder. Fireworks, diyas and sparklers light up the night, while family and friends exchange sweets and gifts. Even dogs join in the fun, receiving marigold garlands as thanks for guarding their owners. In the photos above, see how Diwali celebrations literally light up the country.


Diwali festival of light
A police officer sprinkles colored powder onto a police dog at Nepal's Central Police Dog Training School during a dog worship day as part of the Diwali festival, in Kathmandu, on Nov. 10, 2015. Naredra Shrestha—EPA
Diwali festival of light
A boy prepares garlands of marigold at a makeshift flower market as people drop by to purchase flowers and decorate their homes on the occasion of Diwali festival, in New Delhi, on Nov. 11, 2015. Saurabh Das—AP
Diwali festival of light
An Indian Sikh Nihang (a traditional Sikh religious warrior) Baba 'Avtar' Singh wears an oversized giant traditional turban as he pay respects at the Golden temple in Amritsar on the eve of Diwali, on Nov. 10, 2015.Narinder Nanu—AFP/Getty Images
Diwali festival of light
Visitors throng Akshardham temple, illuminated with some 10,000 oil-lit lamps on the eve of Diwali in Gandhinagar, India, on Nov. 10, 2015. Sam Panthaky—AFP/Getty Images
Diwali festival of light
Indian widows burn fire crackers as they participate in an event to mark Diwali in Vrindavan, 100 miles from New Delhi, on Nov. 10, 2015. Harish Tyagi—EPA
Pakistani minority Hindus celebrate Diwali with fireworks in Karachi on Nov. 11, 2015. Asif Hassan—AFP/Getty Images
Diwali festival of light
An Indian boatman waits for customers in Chitrakoot, India, on Nov. 11,2015. Ritesh Shukla—NurPhoto/Corbis
Diwali festival of light
Indian women light lamps on the eve of Diwali festival to mark the event in Bhopal, India, on Nov. 10, 2015. Sanjeev Gupta—EPA

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Write to Naina Bajekal at naina.bajekal@time.com