by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
JAMMU, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Nov. 7 -- Sandiya Malhotra, a housewife just finished her purchase of earthen lamps and fireworks with a vendor.
Her 12-year-old daughter Vibha holding the packets was urging her mother to step inside a confectionery to buy sweets.
"Mama, please be quick, we need to reach home early," Vibha told Malhotra. "My friends would be waiting for me."
Vibha is eager to reach home to celebrate Diwali, a popular Hindu festival.
"We will light diyas (earthen oil lamps) in the evening and set off firecrackers," said Vibha with a glint of smile on her face. "It will be a total fun."
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is being celebrated Wednesday across India states with traditional enthusiasm and religious fervor.
The Hindus visit temples, wear new clothes and illuminate their houses and shops to celebrate the festival.
"We are coming back from the temple after offering prayers," said Pawan Gupta, a local resident as he walked out of Ragunath temple.
Gupta is accompanied by his aged parents and two sons.
"I want to buy some packs of sweets so that I can present it to the people coming to my place today," said Gupta. "It's time to celebrate and make others feel happy as well."
Jammu, the winter capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, is known as city of temples.
The temples have been decorated and illuminated with electric bulbs and buntings. The Hindu priests inside the main Ragunath temple are busy chanting religious hymns, which is audible in the market outside.
Hundreds of Hindu devotees make a beeline to the temple and participate in hymn singing.
Two days ahead of the festival on Monday, Hindus began the celebrations with Dhanteras -- a day many believe is auspicious for purchasing and making silver.
"The celebrations at our home began on Dhanteras. My mother purchased a few gold ornaments with the belief that it would bring wealth to our family," Rupali Saxena, a Hindu devotee said.
"Today on the eve of Diwali, we pray that this festival would bring light, happiness and peace in our lives."
Hindus across India light earthen oil lamps during evenings to illuminate their houses as a part of observance of the festival.
Diwali festival marks an official holiday in India. The festival is being celebrated in the memory of Hindu God Lord Rama's homecoming after completing 14 years in exile in a forest and his victory over demon king Ravana.
Hindu scholars say the festival marks the victory of good over evil.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted Indians on the occasion of Diwali. "Happy Diwali! May this festival bring happiness, good health and prosperity in everyone's lives. May the power of good and brightness always prevail," the prime minister said in a statement.
With the pollution levels up in Delhi, there is a growing concern of environmental pollution among the residents. Keeping this in mind, the Indian Supreme Court has allowed the bursting of "green" firecrackers in the capital for only two hours on Diwali, from 8:00 p.m. (local time) to 10:00 p.m.