DUBAI // Indian families will celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali today by brightening the day and night with colourful garments and glowing lights as they seek to recreate the revelries of their homeland.
Families decorate the floors of their homes with designs in coloured chalk powder, exchange sweets and wear new clothes as they rejoice at the triumph of good over evil, and in the evening homes are lit up with earthen lamps and artificial lights.
Residents said the fact that the festival falls on a working day would not deter them.
"At sunset, we will offer prayers and light lamps for Goddess Lakshmi," said Neetu Kumar, a Karama resident. "We usually do not leave the house as we believe the house shouldn't be left empty or in darkness. "
Diwali, which translates as "a row of lights", signifies the journey from darkness to light. It marks the return of the ancient king of Ayodhya, Rama, along with his wife, Sita, and brother, Lakshman, to his kingdom. The king ended 14 years of exile after a war in which he killed the demon king Ravana.
Hindus offer prayers to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, and light lamps as a way to welcome her into their homes.
While some people travel to celebrate the festival with family in India, many stay in the Emirates because they consider it their home.
"We have always celebrated Diwali here, we never leave the house empty during Diwali, somebody has to be there," said Asha Jain, a Sharjah resident.
"On the night of Diwali, [Lakshmi] comes into the house, so a home has to be well lit and well decorated. It's said that she sees the entrance and enters the house of whoever has decorated their home the most beautifully."
The lamps are lit for five days. This year the festivities began on Monday night to mark Dhanteras, during which celebrants shop for clothes or jewellery.
Hindus celebrate Diwali by holding prayers - pujas - and visiting the homes of friends and relatives and exchanging sweets.
"The most important part is meeting family members and friends so all of us are together on a special day," Mrs Jain said.
A number of Indian schools have declared today a holiday for Diwali.
Some Indians light fireworks in open areas outside their homes, even though authorities have banned the practice.
"When we light the crackers we feel like we are back home in India," said Sujoi, a Dubai resident who preferred to give only one name.
"Just hearing the crackers explode takes me back to my childhood. We make sure it's not too noisy so the neighbours don't get disturbed."
A grocery store in Karama yesterday was selling sparklers, fireworks called "pops" which create a bang when thrown on the ground, and party poppers.
"These are harmless fireworks," said the grocer, who did not reveal his name. "There is no problem in selling this as they are not as dangerous as the crackers that explode and cause a lot of noise."
A Dubai Municipality notice was posted at his store, stating that the sale of fireworks was banned.
Restaurants also expect to be fully booked today and over the weekend.
"We are anticipating a number of guests," said Rao Chandran Singh, the manager of the Rajdhani Restaurant in Bur Dubai. "The weekend will also be busy at our restaurant."