Diwali, the festival of lights, was celebrated across India on Saturday with prayers, fireworks and frenzied shopping but it was marred by tragedy in Tamil Nadu.
With the economy slowly recovering from the recession that badly hit Diwali last year, people celebrated the festival with fervour and with greater enthusiasm.
Many thronged temples, distributed sweets and wished friends and relatives, with SMS messages - which seem to have replaced the traditional greeting cards - going to and fro throughout the day.
Innumerable homes across the country witnessed colourful rangolis and flowers on doorsteps. There were prayers to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity.
In the evening, millions of lights from tiny earthen diyas and dazzling strings of electric bulbs lit up homes, factories and offices from one of the country to another.
Tragedy struck Tamil Nadu's Pallipatu village, some 90 km from Chennai, when a devastating fire engulfed a godown packed with shoppers for crackers, charring 32 to death. Most victims were from Andhra Pradesh.
Barring this tragedy, it was a joyous day everywhere.
Marketing professional Radhika Mishra said in New Delhi: "I got up early and went to the temple with my family. Like every year my sister and I decorated the courtyard with rangolis and diyas."
Many extended their Diwali weekend to take a small vacation.
"I took the opportunity to go to Jodhpur with my wife," engineer Prateek Shah told IANS.
In Karnataka, victims of the recent floods too joined the celebrations.
"I am going to enjoy Diwali fully. I want to forget all the sad incidents and welcome a new beginning," Santosh Nair, a techie, told IANS.
Reports of Diwali celebrations also came from Tripura and Assam in the northeast.
In Udaipur in south Tripura, a large fair was organised at the 14th century Tripura Sundari Temple with the government contributing over Rs.3 million.
Two buffaloes and hundreds of goats and pigeons will be sacrificed Saturday night in the presence of hundreds of thousands of devotees, said Subrata Deb, chairperson of the Udaipur municipality.
West Bengal celebrated Kali Puja and Diwali, with the police keeping a close vigil to prevent use of banned sound-producing crackers.
At the famed Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai, Diwali celebrations began with the auctioning of valuable offerings made to its coffers.
Most households also prepared sweets and savouries and the special 'Diwali Leghium', a herbal jam.
For newly married couples, it was the first Diwali post their wedding.
Indians abroad celebrate Diwali
Thousands of miles away from their homes, Indians settled abroad today celebrated the festival of lights Diwali with fervour and gaiety amid bursting of crackers and lighting of lamps.
People decorated their homes with traditional lamps and lights while many of them went on a vacation to celebrate the festival of lights as it fell on a weekend this time. The Indian Missions in the US too organised various functions to celebrate the festival.
In London, Diwali was celebrated for the first time at the 10, Downing Street, amid chanting of Vedic prayers for world peace, with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown terming it a "historic event".
"This is a great day for Downing Street, a great day for us and a great day for Britain to celebrate Diwali for the first time in Downing Street. This is a historic event," a beaming Brown told the gathering.
Sri Lankan Tamils marked the festival with President Mahinda Rajapaksa promising the beginning of a new era where their sufferings "will be a thing of the past" and they would be able to return to their homes in the war-torn north, adding "the light of goodwill will dispel the darkness of terror in our land".
People clad in new attire thronged temples and distributed sweets among their community members and friends while children burst fire crackers. According to Hindu belief, Diwali marks the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom after 14 years of exile.