Many in Ottawa's South Asian community gathered on Thursday to prepare for the start of Diwali, the five-day festival of light. 

Temples and homes across the city will be aglow with light this week as the worldwide festival — one of the most important holidays for Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs — kicks off.

"Like Christmas is for North America, Diwali is for India. It's celebrated all across India and the world," said Ravinder Singh, owner of Brampton Foods in Ottawa.

Diwali brampton foods Ottawa 2017

Special foods and candies to celebrate Diwali are on sale at Brampton Foods. (CBC)

His store has cornucopias filled with treats to help mark the occasion. 

Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil, or light winning over darkness. Sparklers, fireworks and special food are important symbols, Singh said.

"Usually we get together for dinner or lunch [and] make some especially tasty food," Ramya Krishnan, a member of a local Hindu spiritual organization, said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

"It's also a time for introspection, to reflect on all of the things you have to be thankful for and to try to remove the negativity from our lives."