The word Diwali means rows of lighted oil lamps. It is actually from Sanskrit Dīpāvalī (दीपावली) meaning "Row of Lamps" or "Spreading of Light".
The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness or good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed. The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night.
On Diwali night, Hindus dress up beautifully and light up DIYAS (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family PUJA (prayers) typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks are followed by a celebration, with exchange of gifts between family members and close friends.
Diwali dates back to ancient times in India, as a festival after the summer harvest in the Hindu calendar month of KARTIKA. The festival is mentioned in Sanskrit scriptures such as the PADMA PURANA and the SKANDA PURANA, both completed in second half of 1st millennium AD but believed to have been expanded from a core text from an earlier era.