India's Festival of the Lights

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Divali, the Festival of the Lights, is one of the happiest, brightest spots on the Indian calendar, full of marigolds and sweets and fireworks. Having celebrated Krishna's birth and Rama's victory over the 10-headed demon-king Ravana at the Janmastami and Dussehra festivals, India's Hindus now burn butter and oil lamps to lead Rama home from exile.

According to Hindu text the Ramayana, Rama spent his exile battling demons in dark forests and resisting a seduction attempt by Ravana's sister. Finally, he joined forces with Hanuman, the monkey god, and led an army of monkeys to kill Ravana and rescue his princess.

Whether you follow Rama or one of the other 330 million Hindu deities, the Festival of Lights is a time for positivity and joy. Coming at the end of the harvest season, it's a period of relative prosperity for the poor of the country and feels like the subcontinent's version of Christmas.

Watch out for firecrackers thrown by children in the street. One safer display takes place on Mumbai's Chowpatty Beach. And watch out for the sweets: the shops will be full of special Divali treats. Why not do as the locals do and buy them by the box-load?

The festival has regional variations but generally includes ceremonies devoted to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. Account books are blessed and the new financial year begins.

Divali takes place on the 15th day of the Indian lunar month of Kartika (October/November). Check online for this year's dates.

Where will you celebrate Divali? Grab our India guide and get choosin'.