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Sanskrit word Deepavali means an row of lights that stands for victory of brightness over darkness.
Diwali is considered the national festival of India.
Diwali signifies the renewal of life. Homes are thoroughly cleaned on Diwali.
In north India, Diwali celebrates Rama's return from fourteen years of exile to Ayodhya after the defeat of Ravana. It is celebrated with the pooja of goddess Laxmi.
In South India, Diwali commemorates the victory of the divine over the mundane.
For Jains, Diwali marks the attainment of Moksha by the Lord Mahavira.
In Nepal Diwali commemorates the victory of Lord Krishna over the demon king Narakaasura
In Bengal, it is celebrated with the pooja of goddess Kali.
Sikh celebrates Diwali as the day when their sixth Guru, Guru Har Govind ji came back from the captivity of the fort of Gwalior city. It is beleived that the foundation stone of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on Diwali in 1577.
Govardhan Puja is celebrated the day after Diwali. It is the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra.
Diwali is not only festival of lights, but also marks the beginning of the Hindu new year. (from indif.com)