DIWALI: Just what is it and why is it called the Festival of Lights?

A short look into what, why and how Diwali is celebrated by most South Asians in the Surrey area.

Dancers perform at SFU Surrey's 8th annual Diwali gala.

SURREY — Here is a short look into what, why and how Diwali is celebrated by most South Asians in the Surrey 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 is celebrated on Nov. 11 of the Roman calendar.

Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. It celebrates victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

Diyas – small shallow receptacles made of clay that hold purified butter – 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. 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 particular Indians celebrate Diwali.

For Sikhs, Diwali is particularly important because it celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Ji, and 52 other princes with him, in 1619.

The Sikh tradition holds that Mogul Emperor Jahangir agreed to release Guru Hargobind Ji but said only those princes who could hold onto his cloak tail would be allowed to leave the prison as well.

In response, Guru Hargobind Ji had a cloak made with 52 pieces of string so each prince was able to hold onto one string and leave prison. Followers lit diyas to celebrate their guru’s homecoming.

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.

People who celebrate Diwali also dress up, exchange gifts with family and friends, similar to celebrating Christmas.

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