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Members of this area's Hindu community will light up the skies over Amherst tonight with a fireworks display to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.

The display will be launched at about 9:30 p.m. from the parking lot of the Hindu Cultural Center, 1595 N. French Road, in conjunction with "Diwali," the religion's "Festival of Lights."

"This is the most brilliant festival of the Hindu year," said Dr. Venkataraman Balu, president of the Hindu Cultural Society. "It has special meaning to us because it is a way of receiving good luck."

The festival commemorates the epic battle between Lord Rama, a benevolent Hindu king and god who stands as a symbol of beauty, truth and honesty, and the evil Ravana, a "Demon King" in Hindu mythology.

In memory of the victory, Balu said, Hindus throughout India celebrate the day "with pomp and splendor, with lights, fireworks and decorations."

"This has become a tradition in every city, town and village throughout the length and breadth of India," said Balu.

For the nearly 500 Hindu families in Western New York, Diwali is also a time to rejoice by celebrating a festival that has both religious and social connotations, said Balu.

"From the religious point of view, it could be said that it stands for the good conquering the evil, and from the social point of view, it gives a unique opportunity for all the ethnic groups from India to celebrate this common festival in a colorful manner with good food," he said.

For business people, Balu said, Diwali is regarded as the start of a new year and is celebrated much like the American New Year.

Balu said the celebration will start with a period of prayer at 7 p.m. in the Hindu Temple. At 7:30, there will be a social gathering and dinner in the Social Hall below the temple. The fireworks will be followed by dancing.

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