MORRISVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- In Morrisville, the Festival of Lights filled Cedar Fork Community Center. On the main floor, a group of Morrisville teenagers, decked from head to toe in traditional Hindu garb, performed in praise of Ganesha -- one of the most widely worshipped gods of the culture. The spreader of light and joy.
"(Ganesha) takes away all of our worries and has a very big aura that shines light on everybody," Riya Khapali said.
Her dance partner Shivani Halur added, "Ganesha represents light over darkness."
That is what Diwali is all about. A 2,500-year-old tradition celebrated by more than a billion people worldwide that celebrates good triumphing over evil.
In India, Diwali's a five-day-long celebration and a spectacle of laser light shows and thousands of diyas -- small oil-burning candles.
Back in Morrisville, where more than half of the town's population is south-Asian Indian, one of the highest concentrations in the state, Thursday was the main celebration. The town's first official Diwali festival.
"After the COVID, this is a great time to come together," said Dr. Yerram Setty. "And I'm sure the whole town is celebrating right now."
It was a celebration of happiness and light after the darkness wrought by the pandemic.
"It means so much. This has been a tremendously dark time in our country and the world," said Morrisville Town Council member Steve Rao. "One thing we're seeing is a lot of Indians with families in India -- that they can't give the last rites to their parents or brothers and sisters. There's such distance.
"So this is just a great way to show love and support and the great things our community can do," he added.
Some call it Indian New Year. Fireworks popped outside. There are lots of sweet treats. And everyone wears their best new clothes. The candles are lit to bring in peace and prosperity.
"And may there be more light. May there be more knowledge. And happy Diwali to you," said Poornima Halur.
The dates of Diwali are timed around the new moon. The dark night sky means the lights shine even brighter. This was Morrisville's first town-sanctioned festival. But it won't be the last. There are already plans for next year's festival of light: bigger better and brighter.