The legends behind the festival are varied in different regions. The festival is replete with a host of stories all of which underscore the classic truth of the victory of good over evil.
It is widely believed in Northern India that Diwali commemorates the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom in Ayodhya from his 14 years of exile after defeating the demon king Ravana. It is believed that the people of Ayodhya welcomed their king by illuminating the entire city with candles and lamps. People also distributed sweets to celebrate the return of their beloved king.
As per another popular legend, Diwali is the celebration of the birth of Goddess Lakshmi during the churning of cosmic ocean of milk by the gods and the demons. Gods and demons were once engaged in the elaborate process of churning of the cosmic ocean to get the drink of immortality or ‘Amrit’. A range of precious things including goddesses were released from the ocean during the churning process. One among them was Lakshmi – the Goddess of fortune and wealth. She accepted Vishnu as her eternal consort.
The night of the Diwali is the celebration of the marriage of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. On this auspicious occasion, it is believed that both heaven and earth were completely illuminated, and sweets were exchanged. The marriage and relationship between Lakshmi and Vishnu as wife and husband, is set as the model for rituals and ceremonies in Hindu weddings.
In Southern India, Diwali is the day on which lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura, who was infamous for scandalising Vrindavan and kidnapping villagers.
Hindu devotees from Western India celebrate Diwali as a tribute to Lord Vishnu.