Religious Reasons for Diwali
Why do Hindus (and Jains and Sikhs) celebrate Diwali? There are many religious reasons for this holiday, one of the most well known being the homecoming of the Lord Ram, who was sent into exile along with wife Sita and younger brother Lakshman for 14 years by his stepmother. While in exile, Sita was kidnapped by the demon Ravan and taken to his kingdom. Ram fought a fierce war with the help of the monkey king and Hanuman, the monkey God. Ram was victorious, and returned to Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) with his wife and brother. His people lit lamps to welcome him, and his comeback was celebrated as Diwali.
One other is that of King Bali, who was known for his generosity. But as he grew more successful, the gods prayed to Lord Vishnu to destroy him. Lord Vishnu, transforming himself into a Brahmin dwarf, asked King Bali for as much land as three footsteps would cover. Bali agreed, after which Vishnu changed himself into a giant and took two huge steps. Before the third step, Bali placed his head under Vishnu’s foot, which then pushed him into the underworld. Being pleased with his generosity, Vishnu granted Bali the boon of being able to visit his kingdom once a year. Many Hindus celebrate Diwali as the time when King Bali comes to earth to visit his kingdom.