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The Festival of Lights

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Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is the festival of lights, a holiday celebrated by over one billion Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs in South Asia and around the world. For Hindus, it is the day that Rama, a figure in Hindu mythology, returned from his 14-year exile to his home in Ayodha. For Jains, adherents of the sage Mahavir, it commemorates the day that he attained Moksha, or enlightenment. Sikhs celebrate Diwali as the day that the guru Hargobind and 52 princes were released from prison by the Mughal Emperor Jehangir. To celebrate, people put up diyas, or lights, to commemorate the occasion. The celebration lasts five days, with fireworks, sweets, gift-giving, and family gatherings. Typically, Diwali is celebrated in late October through early November, depending on the lunar calendar.

Sri Lankan Hindus offer prayers during Diwali at a Hindu temple in Colombo on Oct. 26.

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Indian Sikh devotees light candles as they pay their respects at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Oct. 26.

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Gurmeet Singh and Puneet Kaur lights lamps as they pay their respects at the illuminated Sikh Shrine in Amritsar on Oct. 26.

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Fireworks explode on a road in Hyderabad on Oct. 26.

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Children watch as Indian Border Security Force personnel light lamps to place before an idol of the goddess Kali as they celebrate Diwali at the Fulbari Border outpost at the India-Bangladesh border on the outskirts of Siliguri on Oct. 26.

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An Indian woman buys marigolds at a market on the eve of Diwali in Hyderabad on Oct. 26. People typically decorate the entrances to their homes and businesses with banana leaves and marigolds during the holiday.

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An Indian vendor selling earthenware diyas waits for customers at a roadside stall in New Delhi on Oct. 26.

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A Sri Lankan Hindu priest offers prayers during Diwali at a temple in Colombo on Oct. 26.

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A Nepalese Hindu woman offers fruit to a cow, regarded as an incarnation of the Hindu goddess of prosperity, Laxmi, in Kathmandu on Oct. 26. Hindus across Nepal worship cows on the third day of the Tihar (or Diwali) festival.

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Indian farmer Bhagwanbhai Patel checks the quality of Dutch roses at Vandan Floritech greenhouse in the village of Kasindra, around 15 miles from Ahmedabad on the eve of Diwali on Oct. 25. During Diwali, the demand for flowers increases as they are given as gifts.

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An Indian artist, Mulee, paints an idol of the Hindu goddess Laxmi at her workshop in Amritsar ahead of Diwali on Oct. 19.

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