In pictures: Diwali celebrations

Millions around the world are celebrating the five-day festival of light.


New Delhi, India - Diwali is one of the best-known, biggest, brightest - and loudest festivals in the Hindu calendar. Its significance varies depending on local tradition and culture, but it is known everywhere as "the festival of light".

Family homes are brightly decorated, as friends and relatives gather to exhange gifts, light oil-filled lamps, and set off spectacular firework displays. Markets are packed with people buying sweets and other presents, and the clay lamps, named diyas, are produced by artisan potters by the thousand.

The festival has different meanings for different communities. Hindus celebrate the triumph of good over evil - of light over darkness - marking the return of Ram, the lord of virtue, to his kingdom after 14 years of exile.

Followers of Jainism commemorate Mahavira, a venerated ascetic who fundamentally reformed the faith, reaching a state of nirvana following his death.

Sikhs, meanwhile, use Diwali to mark the anniversary of the release from prison of Guru Hargobind in 1619.

Throughout India, and in Indian communities around the world, friends and family come together to mark the occasion and welcome the goddess Lakshmi, said to bring good luck and prosperity.

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