The festival falls in the month of October/November. The term Deepavali is formed by coining the Sanskrit words, Deep (lamp) and vali (array). In Tamil Nadu, the five-day Deepavali celebrations begin with an oil bath before sunrise. This is considered akin to taking a bath in the Ganges. Oil is symbolic of washing off the evil traits in one, such as ego and jealousy. After the bath, people wear new clothes and perform Puja. The houses are cleaned and decorated for the festival, with Kolams, betel leaves and nuts, flowers, and fruits.
Clay lamps or diyas are lit to cast away the evil spirits. Crackers are also burst to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Eateries in Tamil Nadu will be flooded with Deepavali sweets. Some of the savouries on the menu include boondi, palkova, ukkarai, omapodi, jangri, vellai appam, and pathri. Going by history, Deepavali started off as a summer harvest festival that fell on the Karthika month of the Hindu calendar. There is mention of this festival in 1st millennium CE Sanskrit texts of Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. The 11th century traveller Al Biruni has also mentioned this light of festivals in his memoir.
While in North India, Deepavali is seen as an occasion to celebrate Ram’s return to his kingdom after his 14 years of exile after killing the demon Ravan, in South India, including Tamil Nadu, it is celebrated as Lord Krishna’s and Goddess Satyabhama’s triumph over the demon Narakasura. For the newlyweds, Thala Deepavali, or their first Deepavali after marriage holds much significance as the couples are showered with blessings and gifts.