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Yesterday, Hindus around the world celebrated the Diwali Festivals with aplomb. Although this day is not gazetted under our Kenyan laws, the Kenyan Hindu took the day off to perform their rituals. In Thika Town, these celebrations took place in various Hindu Temples and at the Gymkhana Grounds.

In the evening, as is the norm, the Hindu families gathered at these designated places for the festivities, played cards and made merry. Some hosted get-together dinners to usher in the festival with the near and dear ones. They also bursted firecrackers, an exercise that government authorities had restricted to specified hours. Noone was permitted to burst these crackers in residential areas. 
Diwali or the festival of lights is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in India and around the world. It is dedicated to the triumph of goodness over evil and knowledge over ignorance. It honours the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and the legend of Rama and Sita. 

Festivities include decorating houses and public spaces with thousands of lights, candles and colourful designs. Fireworks, family gathering and gift giving also form part of the celebrations. According to the Hindus, the sound of firecrackers is meant to make the gods aware of the plentiful state of people living on earth. 
The lighting of lamps ‘is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity. 

The preparations for the day start early, with most sweetmeat shops getting overwhelmed with mithai orders. From new clothes for family members, to delightful décor in the house, to scrumptious foods and gifts; nothing is left undone to ensure the festival is glorious and memorable at best.

When Diwali approaches, people clean their households to get rid of bad luck in the coming year. People burst crackers, make feasts, exchange sweets and stay late. As per the belief, the goddess of Luck would make a visit to the households and people decorate their houses to welcome Goddess.

The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five day period, beginning on Dhanteras (2 days before the Diwali) and ends on Bhaiya Dooj (2 days after Diwali), but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. During five days festivity various rituals are followed and with Goddess Lakshmi several other Gods and Goddesses are worshipped.

Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices. On Diwali night, Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of wealth and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepavali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.

On the same night that Hindus celebrate Diwali, Jains celebrate a festival of lights to mark the attainment of moksha by Mahavira, Sikhs celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas and some Buddhists also celebrate Diwali remembering Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism.

In Hindu homes around the world, people also gather to offer prayers to Sita and Rama, Radha and Krishna, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, Ganesh, the god of auspiciousness. For many in the Hindu community, Diwali is also the beginning of a new year. A popular greeting around this time is "Shubh Diwali."

The word Diwali comes from the Sanskrit deepavali, which means a row of lights. The festival of Diwali (or Deepavali) is an Indian, cultural, seasonal
celebrations observed by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists that involves Diya and lighting, home decoration, shopping, fireworks, puja (prayers), gifts,performing religious rituals, feast and sweets. It symbolizes the victory of light over dark, good over evil and knowledge over darkness. It is one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar and there are multiple reasons why Hindus celebrate this festival. 

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