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Page last updated at 11:15 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 12:15 UK
Celebrating New Year Indian style

Sushil Chauhan
Sushil Chauhan
BBC Tyne contributor

Sushil's family
Sushil's mother and aunts - Diwali is a time for family celebration

Sushil Chauhan from the North East is president of Newcastle University Hindu Society. He recently celebrated Diwali, and told us what the start of the Indian New Year means to him.

Diwali was recently celebrated across the world.

It is the largest festival across South Asia and is a special time for millions around the globe.

Diwali or Deepavali is the celebration of Lord Ram's return to Ayodhya to reclaim his rightful place as king after being exiled of 14 years by his step-mother.

According to folklore, the inhabitants of Ayodhya lit the dark night of Ram's journey home with their earthenware lamps called diyas.

Upon his arrival home, the whole city was illuminated in celebration, hence it also becoming known as the Festival of Light.

And it sure lives up to its name!

Fireworks and light

Sushil Chauhan
For Sushil, the most important part is seeing his family

This auspicious time, is celebrated amongst Hindus, Sikhs and Jains on the scale of Christmas.

Fireworks fill the sky, sparklers, diyas and candles are lit all around the home. Light seems to be coming from everywhere.

The light is not just in the literal sense - this spiritual time of year brings about an enlightening feeling from within.

The light represents the positivity and brightness of God. It also banishes the darkness within our lives, leading us away from evil and negative influences.

People rejoice and celebrate - a union of friends, family and communities.

To celebrate, I went to London to be near my dad's six brothers, joining the extended family for plenty of food and laughter.

Family time

For me, [family] is the most important aspect of Diwali, alongside the continuance of thousands of years of traditions and culture.
Sushil Chauhan

Everyone is spoilt with a feast, cooked usually by female members of their family. A myriad of Indian sweets are indulged in. New clothes are worn and there is a general feeling of happiness and goodwill in the atmosphere.

Children often get presents and it is also a chance for them to reap the financial rewards of the generosity of parents, grand-parents, uncles and aunts.

Diwali is a rare chance to meet with the whole family and celebrate together. Everyone seems to be relaxed and embracing the festive feelings.

This joyous time of year can rarely be bested! It highlights the importance of family and those you care about when you have the chance to come together and unite in common festivity and celebration, and gives you an opportunity to really appreciate your close ones.

For me this is the most important aspect of Diwali, alongside the continuance of thousands of years of traditions and culture.

Sushil's family
Some of Sushil's many cousins at a family gathering

Start afresh

It is a chance to reflect on the past year and pray for rewards in the coming year. Most commonly, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshipped, praying for good fortune for the next year.

Doorways are decorated with rangoli, which is a colourful painted pattern.

These rangoli welcome Lakshmi to the homes to grant people's prayers. Many Hindus visit the Mandir (temple) where they perform a Puja - a religious offering ceremony and others may worship at home.

The following day is New Year's Day on the Indian calendar. So the celebration continues!

It is also a time to start afresh with the improvements in our life we promise to ourselves and to God.

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