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A brief history of Diwali

South Asians mark victory of good over evil

Here is a short, simple and hopefully informative look into what, why and how Diwali is celebrated by most South Asians in the Lower Mainland area.

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, usually falls in either October or November as its date is based on the Hindu lunar calendar.

This year, Diwali was celebrated on the Nov. 13th of the Roman calendar. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists and is an important celebration as it celebrates victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

Diyas are lit to ward off evil and to usher in goodness with light. Followers of each religion go to their respective place of worship to pray and light the diyas on this holy night.

What are diyas? Diyas are small shallow receptacles made of clay that hold purified butter, which in turn fuels the cotton wick within.

Lit diyas are laid in a row around the perimeter of one's home as well as in front of the altar, if one has an altar at home.

There are many different legends as to how and why a particular area in India celebrates Diwali.

The following is a brief version of a very long story of how and why northern Hindus celebrate Diwali. In north India, Hindus follow the legend of Lord Rama and his wife Sita's return home after 14 years in exile and also of Lord Rama's epic battle with the demon King Rawan, whom he kills.

The people of Ayodha, home of Lord Rama, were so excited to hear that their beloved future king was coming home that they lit the way for him and his wife Sita with diyas.

In Hindu custom it is common to leave a few lights on in the home all night to ward off evil and to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, to come bless the home.

Sikhs celebrate Diwali because their sixth guru, Guru Har Govind, was released from captivity. He had been prisoned by a Mogul emperor.

After his release, Guru Har Govind went straight to the foremost Sikh holy temple, Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple, in Amritsar to pray.

Followers lit diyas to celebrate their guru's homecoming. Other than lighting the diyas, Diwali celebrators take this opportunity to dress up, exchange gifts with family and friends, indulge in yummy goodies and basically have a grand time, similar to celebrating Christmas.