Diwali 2015: What and when is the Hindu Festival of Lights?

Diwali 2015.
Diwali 2015.
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Religious groups in the North East are preparing to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

Diwali gets underway this year on November 11. But how much do you know about it?

The age-old Indian tradition takes place this month, bringing together generations of people from different communities.

What is Diwali?

Diwali is a five-day Festival of Lights celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.

It is one of the most significant festivals in Indian culture, celebrating the victory of light over darkness and good over evil.

The word Diwali means "rows of lighted lamps. " Houses and shops are decorated with candles and colourful lights.

For many Indians, the festival honours Lakshmi - the goddess of wealth. People start the new business year at Diwali and some say prayers to the goddess for a prosperous year ahead.

When is Diwali?

The date of Diwali is calculated according to the position of the moon in the Hindu lunar calendar, meaning it changes every year.

This year the festival falls on Wednesday November 11,

How is Diwali celebrated?

Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrating Diwali light traditional earthenware oil lamps called diyas, which are said to help the wealth goddess Lakshmi find her way into people’s homes.

They also leave the windows and doors of their houses open so she can enter.

Large firework displays also take place to celebrate Rama and his wife Sita.

Rama was the seventh incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and the fireworks are used to celebrate his return to the kingdom after being exiled for 14 years, and his defeating of the ten-headed king Ravana, when the people set off their own version of fireworks.

What other Diwali traditions do people take part in?

People celebrate Diwali by making rangoli artwork: patterns created using coloured rice or powder. The most popular pattern is the lotus flower, as Lakshmi was often pictured either sitting on or holding one.

During Diwali, families and friends share sweets, dried fruit and gifts, and many give food and goods to those who are less fortunate and in need.

It is also a time for spring cleaning and redecorating, and wearing new clothes.