In preparation for Diwali, house and shops are scrubbed clean and doorsteps are decorated with multi-coloured designs called ‘Rangoli’. Houses are painted inside and outside. New pots and pans are bought. Even the animals are washed, groomed and decorated.
People wear their best clothes or buy new ones. Very often gifts are exchanged between families and friends.
Elaborate foods are prepared, and the food most typical of Diwali is a variety of sweetmeats beautifully decorated with nuts, spices and silver paper. The silver paper used is edible. The lighting of fireworks is another essential feature of the Diwali festivities.
In Bengal, the people hold a festival in honour of Kali, the goddess of strength, decease and death.
During the festival of Kali, homes are strung with lights, and the streets are lined with shrines. The shrine is decorated with flowers and incense burners. In the center, is an image of Kali. She is shown with a fierce expression, wearing a necklace made of skulls, and with her arms uplifted. As evening falls, each shrine is lit and there is a colorful fireworks display. Finally a procession takes the images of Kali down to a river. The crowds sing, chant and ring bells as each of the images of Kali is set afloat on the water.