Diwali is an important festival for Hindus. The name of festive days as well as the rituals of Diwali vary significantly among Hindus, based on the region of India. In many parts of India, the festivities start with Dhanteras, followed by Naraka Chaturdasi on second day, Diwali on the third day, Diwali Padva dedicated to wife-husband relationship on the fourth day, and festivities end with Bhau-beej dedicated to sister-brother bond on the fifth day. Dhanteras usually falls eighteen days after Dussehra.
On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, Sikhs similarly celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas, and Arya Samajists celebrate Shardiya Nav-Shasyeshti.
Diwali is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore and Fiji.
Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of Kartika. The festival is mentioned in Padma Purana, the Skanda Purana, and other Sanskrit Hindu scriptures; the divas (lamps) are mentioned in Skanda Purana to symbolically represent parts of sun, the cosmic giver of light and energy to all life, who seasonally transitions in the Hindu calendar month of Kartik.
The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (or deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness.
Indians celebrate with family gatherings, glittering clay lamps, festive fireworks, strings of electric lights, bonfires, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship to Lakshmi. Some believe that Lakshmi wanders the Earth looking for homes where she will be welcomed. People open their doors and windows and light lamps to invite Lakshmi in.
The fourth day — the main Diwali festival day and the beginning of the lunar month of Karttika — marks the beginning of the new year according to the Vikrama calendar.
It is generally a time for visiting, exchanging gifts, cleaning and decorating houses, feasting, setting off fireworks displays, and wearing new clothes. Gambling is encouraged during this season as a way of ensuring good luck for the coming year and in remembrance of the games of dice played by the Lord Shiva and Parvati on Mount Kailasa or similar contests between Radha and Krishna. Ritually, in honour of Lakshmi, the female player always wins.