The festival of lights is observed on the day of ‘Amavasya’ or new moon, the 15th day of Kartik, according to the Hindi calendar. Starting at the end of the cropping season, it is often associated with wealth and happiness.
According to mythology, Diwali has been referred to as Deepapratipadutsava in the seventh century Sanskrit play Nagananda, in which newlywed couples were gifted lamps and other things in remembrance of Lord Vishnu and goddess Lakshmi’s marriage.
It has been referred to as Dipamalika in the ninth century work of the poet Rajashekhar, where traditions of homes being cleaned and decorated with lights are mentioned. There is also mention of the festival in Persian traveller and historian Al- Biruni’s 11th century memoir on India.
Today, many celebrate it in remembrance of the return of Lord Rama and Sita after 14 years of exile, while others honour the return of Pandavas after 12 years of vanvas and a year of agyatvas.
The festival, according to a popular legend, is also associated with the story of Yama and Nachiketa on Kartika amavasya — one that narrates the tale of true wealth, knowledge and right versus wrong. It is also one of the reasons why Diwali is celebrated as the festival of prosperity, wisdom and light.