Millions light up India for Diwali festival

Bright lights, fireworks and chaotic-celebrations – it can only be Diwali. Millions of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs in India and across the world have been marking the annual five-day festival of light this week with traditional prayers, fireworks and a huge amount of feasting.

The festival, which coincides with Hindu New Year, involves lighting traditional earthen diyas (candles), decorating houses with colourful rangoli (floor patterns created with coloured rice or powder), and wearing new clothes, often gifts from relatives.

Each faith has its own reasons for celebrating Diwali, but the main theme which runs throughout the festival is the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, shown with huge fireworks displays and by decorating houses with candles and long strings of lights.

In India, traditional holiday traffic saw cities across the country draw to a standstill as firecrackers burst overhead, shops buzzed with customers buying gold – Diwali is an auspicious time for new purchases – and children letting off firecrackers in the streets.

Sweets are a major part of the festival, and Indian shop windows have been filled with towering arrays of neon-coloured hand-made Diwali specialties such as sutarfeni (sweet shredded dough topped with pistachio nuts).

More than 35,000 people attended a Diwali parade on the streets of Leicester city centre this week, an area which is known for some of the largest Diwali festivities outside of India.