Divali, the festival of lights, is one of the most diversely celebrated festivals in India. This auspicious festival is important to different communities for various reasons. For much of the Hindu population of India and abroad, Divali is illustrative of good triumphing over evil, when Lord Rama, his wife, and brother return from exile as heroes. It is also when homage is paid to the goddess of prosperity and wealth, Lakshmi, along with the remover of all obstacles, Lord Ganesha. In the state of West Bengal, Goddess Kali is worshipped instead of Lakshmi. For members of the Sikh community, it is the time when Guru Hargobind freed himself and several Hindu kings from the prison of an Islamic ruler. In addition to these, there are many other kinds of Divali celebration throughout India.

For Jains, it is when Lord Mahavira, the last tirthtankara attained nirvana or liberation.

While the religious reason for Divali is diverse, celebrations are similar. Across India, families and friends gather to pray, eat, shop, light lamps, and burst firecrackers together. However, even on this occasion, Jains celebrate in a more restrained fashion.

At a digambara temple in Bangalore, people gather before sunrise to pray and offer a laddu, or round sweet, to Mahavira. After the sweet has been blessed, it is gathered and sent to orphanages and given away to poor communities.

"At a digambara temple in Bangalore, people gather before sunrise to pray and offer a laddu, or round sweet, to Mahavira. After the sweet has been blessed, it is gathered and sent to orphanages and given away to poor communities."

"At a digambara temple in Bangalore, people gather before sunrise to pray and offer a laddu, or round sweet, to Mahavira. After the sweet has been blessed, it is gathered and sent to orphanages and given away to poor communities."

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Text and photographs: Sweta Daga
Additional commentary: Dhruva Ghosh