CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Billions of people around the world are celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. The holiday is bringing people together across Central Illinois, too.

The holiday marks new beginnings for Hindus and a chance to enter their Lunar New Year with fortuitous blessings from the goddess of wealth. It’s their biggest celebration, and is akin to a mix of winter holidays and New Years.

On Sunday at Champaign’s Hindu Temple, that’s exactly what they celebrated. One leader led traditional chants and prayers. The festivities typically last five days.

The temple’s Kalindi Patel said Diwali isn’t just about the ritual, known as “puja.” It’s also an opportunity for people whose families may be far away to celebrate with each other.

“It gives us peace of mind that we have a big family that will always be with us when needed,” she said.

Patel said during Diwali, people will celebrate by lighting lamps and candles, or other sources of light.

Lakshmi is the goddess people pray to during the festival of lights, but Patel said the Hindu Temple in Champaign has its own deity — Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge — because of its proximity to the University of Illinois.