For Hindus, the dead live on when their souls are reincarnated in other bodies.
They invoke Lakshmi, goddess of fortune and prosperity, to bless their homes and businesses as they open new account books. They wear new clothes, visit friends and family members to exchange gifts, and set off fireworks
But in Bengal Diwali honors the goddess Kali, the five-millennia-old Creator-Preserver-Destroyer of the Universe, the womb-and-tomb primal mother found in so many ancient religions. Her breathing is the pulse of the universe, for she is at once the menstrual sea of blood that gives birth to the world and the fierce, emaciated hag whose primordial hunger must feast on animals and humans to replenish the energy that drives the cosmos.
Thus she is often depicted wearing a necklace of skulls, her hair wild, her tongue red with blood, dancing ecstatically on cremation grounds, gathering up souls to be seeds for new life. In this destroyer mode, Kali may well be our worst nightmare—the nightmare we must come to grips with, for in facing her, we face our own terror of annihilation.