By Kristen Johanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Many turned up outside City Hall Thursday night to mark Diwali, the popular holiday celebrated by many in the Indian and Hindu communities in our region.

Known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali observes happiness, joy and light.
Shivani Raina is with the Main Line Indian Association and says the holiday originated with the story of a king fighting off a demon.

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“To welcome back Lord Rama, who left the kingdom for 14 years, and had fought a big battle and was coming back to his kingdom,” Raina said.

She says the celebration is about being with family and friends, eating, dancing and singing– and rejoicing in life.

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(photo credit Kristen Johanson)

(photo credit Kristen Johanson)

The story says people lined his hometown with thousands of rows or lights. Raina says the festival is as important to Hindus, as Christmas is to Christians.

“When things are dark, and there’s a new rising, that is what Diwali is about,” Raina says.

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The event was sponsored by the city and several international groups.