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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
Thousands celebrate Diwali
Belgrave Road in Leicester, 2001
Leicester attracts thousands for Diwali
Thousands of people across the UK began celebrating the religious festival of Diwali on Saturday.

Leicester traditionally hosts one of the largest celebrations in the country for the annual festival of light.

The event marks the first day of the five-day religious festival, one of the most important of the year for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.

It is estimated one billion Hindus and millions of Sikhs around the world will be celebrating Diwali during the festival.

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In previous years, Belgrave Road in Leicester has been decorated with more than 6,000 coloured light bulbs and the event has drawn more than 60,000 people.

Cities across the UK hold similar celebrations involving prayers, food, music and dancing.

The legend behind Diwali, or Deepaavali, is that Lord Rama returned to the capital of his kingdom Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years.

He came back in triumph after eliminating the demon Ravana, who had captured his wife Sita.

The victory is celebrated by firecrackers and lights to signify the triumph of good over evil.


Families often light clay lamps with wicks, called divas, which they place in their houses and gardens.

The Jains mark the attainment of nirvana by one of their great leaders, Mahaaveera, while the Sikhs celebrate the return of guru Hargovindji to Amritsar after his release from imprisonment by Moghul ruler Jehangir.

Businesses also open new account books at Diwali, as it is the start of the Hindu new year.

Diwali is also a time to pray to the goddess of wealth, Laxmi, for good fortune.

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