New Delhi: Diwali was on Tuesday celebrated with joy and gaiety across India as millions lit candles and `diyas`, exploded crackers and shared sweets and gifts with friends and neighbours.
By late evening, hundreds of thousands of traditional earthen lamps and electric festoon lights brightened homes, shops and work places in what is undoubtedly India`s most celebrated festival.
The picture was the same in city after city, town after town, correspondents reported.
The festival of lights marks the triumph of good over evil, and is widely believed to mark the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya after vanquishing the demon king Ravana.
The first report of Diwali celebrations came from Tamil Nadu where, in keeping with tradition, people exploded firecrackers just before dawn and, after a traditional oil bath, offered prayers and burst more crackers.
Across the country, people prayed to Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi at home and in temples.
Diwali prayers were also offered in innumerable offices and business establishments.
"We visited the temple in the morning and then the market to buy lots of crackers," said an excited Karan Gupta, a 14-year-old from Vasant Kunj in South Delhi.
Almost everywhere, there was plenty of last minute shopping -- for gifts, plenty of sweets and dry fruits, and other goodies ranging from Hindu idols to precious jewellery.
With traditional greeting cards losing out to e-cards and SMS greetings, mobile telephone companies made a huge kill.
"I made a rangoli with coloured stones, flowers and candles depicting Ganesha," said Bipin Sharma, a 34-year-old in Lucknow.
Many opted for exquisite rangolis outside their houses, decking them up with floral garlands.
Satish Reddy, a software engineer in Hyderabad, said: "We prepare special sweets like `payasam`. Our non-Hindu friends visit to celebrate with us in the evenings."
Diwali festival every year sees mass migration of working people from major urban centres to their hometowns and villages.
"I am celebrating with my parents in Gujarat," said Arpana Singh, a journalist based in Mumbai. "In the process, I am giving rest to my mother from kitchen chores too."
In Delhi, which sees a high number of fire accidents every Diwali, police said they were on high alert.
Also on Diwali, which falls on Amavasya (no moon day), people offer prayers to the departed.