A Diwali pooja is worship to the Deities of the Hindu Religion in the form of prayer, offerings and sacrifices. The day of Diwali is important since it signifies the worship and praise of devotees to the various deities; but most importantly, it is a day of praise to Goddess Lakshmi and by extension the divine mother of the entire universe and the earthly (physical) mother. Most devout Hindus perform the Dipavali Pooja in a fixed, ritualistic pattern, by celebrating in praise and offerings to Lord Ganesh, Lord Shiva, The Nine Planets, Kalsa (representing the Universe) and Mother Lakshmi.
During the Dipavali Poojan, offerings are made to the fire (Agni devta), which is viewed as the mouth of the Divine- it is the actual feeding of the God. During Diwali Pooja, sixteen prescribed steps occur (symbolic of the sixteen ceremonies to be completed in the life span of a Hindu) including the welcoming of the Deity, giving the Deity a place to sit, the washing of the feet, decorating the Deity, and the offering of food items, clothing or money to seek blessings.
Fresh, sweet-scented flowers along with specific herbs and plants are used, as well as Jhal/Phaag (a combination of milk, ghee, honey and spices). The planting of flags with significant colors associated with the deities is used to symbolize the offerings. In addition, this particular Pooja not only celebrates happiness with light, but with song, chanting, tasting of food, ringing of bells, and the blowing of Conch shells as blessings are bestowed among family members.
Tiny lamps of clay are lighted to drive away the shadows of evil spirits and Self-enlightenment is expressed. It is believed that on this day Lakshmi visits each household and showers her blessings on man for plenty and prosperity. Once the ceremonial worship is finished in the evening, sweets are offered to the goddess as "Naivedya" and distributed as "Prasad". Feasts are arranged and gifts are exchanged on this day. Gaily dressed men, women and children go to temples and fairs, visit friends and relatives.
One of the most curious customs, which characterizes this festival of Dipavali, is the indulgence of gambling, especially on a large scale in North India. It is believed that Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband, Lord Shiva on this day and she decreed that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper throughout the ensuring year. This tradition of playing cards- flush and rummy with stakes on this particular day continues even to day.