From potters crafting clay figures to workers drying out the silk that will go on to create garlands, these colourful images show global preparations for Diwali, known as the Hindu Festival of Lights. The pictures also show how the festival, which officially falls on Sunday, October 27, is celebrated early around the world: from a beautiful event in Durban, South Africa to a day out in Auckland, New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern dressed in traditional Indian attire.
What is Diwali?
The Hindu festival is at once a celebration of the autumn harvest and the triumph of good over evil, as outlined in the Ramayana.
According to the Sanskrit epic, penned by the sage Valmiki, Diwali marks the time that the exiled king Rama – a mortal with superhuman powers – returned home to the city of Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, after vanquishing the 10-headed demon Ravana and conquering his kingdom of Lanka. The people of Ayodhya are believed to have lit thousands of earthen lamps to illuminate the city and to guide the royal family home.
In its current iteration, Diwali is celebrated with a puja to welcome the goodness of prosperity Lakshmi (an incarnation of Sita) into the home, which is decorated with diyas (oil lamps) or fairy lights and rangoli designs with coloured powder. Fireworks light up the sky in some parts of the word, and sweetmeats are made (or bought) by most households. It is customary to get new clothes stitched, and visit friends and family to exchange gifts and greetings.