OXFORDSHIRE'S 8,000-strong Hindu community will mark ‘the festival of lights’ for the 11th time on Saturday and everyone is welcome to join a party to celebrate.

Oxford Hindu Temple and Community Centre issued the open invitation to this year’s Oxford Diwali Festival of Lights Dinner Dance.

The party will be held at Oxford Academy on Sandy Lane West from 7pm until late.

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Organisers said they had prepared an evening packed with entertainment to celebrate the prosperity and wellbeing brought by Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of wealth.

The festivities will begin with ‘the Feast of the East’, followed by Bollywood and Bhangra dances under Bollywood choreographer Jay Kumar’s instructions, and organisers reminded attendees not to forget their dancing shoes.

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It is the 11th time Diwali – often transcribed also as Deepavali – will be celebrated in Oxford, not only for the 8,000 Hindus living in Oxfordshire, but for anyone attracted to Hinduism and Indian culture.

The celebration is of one of the most important dates in the Hindu calendar and symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

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Kanta Gopal of the temple explained: “It falls on the night of the new moon in October or November and it is a joyous celebration of the homecoming of Lord Rama.

“On this day he returned to his birthplace, Ayodhya, after spending 14 years in exile, and the people of Ayodhya lit thousands of clay lamps – ‘deepa’ – to welcome Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana.”

Usually five day long, the festival is most commonly attributed to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and wife to Vishnu, but the form and attribution vary between different traditions as Diwali is a part of Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Newar Buddhist religious calendars.

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Aside from the legend told by Ms Gopal, there is an altogether different explaination of the Diwali origins, in which Vishnu as incarnation of Krishna killed the evil demon Narakasura and released 16,000 girls held in captivity.

In this tradition, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil and the day before Diwali is remembered as Naraka Chaturdasi, the day of the daemon Narakasura’s death.

Hinduism is world’s third-largest religion and its teachings are followed by about 1.1bn people worldwide, mostly in India and Nepal.

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The religion started to synthesise from various traditions at around 300BC, but flourished in the medieval period, when Buddhism lost its significance in India.

Hinduism has been present in the UK since early 19th century and according to the 2001 census 817,000 UK residents (1.5 per cent of the population) identify as Hindu.

There were 101 Hindu temples in the United Kingdom in 2001, compared to 614 Muslim mosques and 193 Sikh temples.

Tickets for Saturday's Diwali dinner dance at Oxford Academy are priced at £25 per adult and £15 for children aged five-to-15.

Children under five years old can go in free.

Buy online and find out more about the city's Hindu community at oxfordhindutemple.org.