Bright flashes of color and loud music were on display in the Memorial Hall ballroom on the evening of October 29 as the University of Georgia Indian Student Association celebrated Diwali.
Diwali is a festival that originated in India and is also called the festival of lights. The holiday is celebrated by several religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, and therefore the meaning of each celebration varies. In northern India, the festival celebrates Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana and his return to his kingdom after exile. Across religions, the festival is exciting and hopeful as it seeks to inspire positive energy for the coming calendar year.
“The importance of Diwali is that even in the midst of darkness, the light will eventually prevail,” ISA President Shubhangi Rai said. “We celebrate the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair.”
A lively party
Diwali Night had no shortage of entertainment and festivities. There were several acts that sang and danced, games, an audience question-and-answer session, and a full buffet style Indian dinner.
“It just brings joy to the light and brings back childhood memories from home,” said Sunita Singh, one of the founding members of the Indian Association of Greater Athens. “I think it’s like vacation time and Christmas time. You hear those bells, and [see] snow, and you have Santa Claus and you feel happy. It’s the same thing.”
Nagesh Veeravalli, a graduate student in computer science, said ISA has helped create a community for students away from home and helped him meet new people.
“You have instant connection and you can share everything with [them] and they can relate to you, ”Veeravalli said.
ISA Vice President Richa Bajaj said setting up Diwali Night was no easy task. The event was prepared for weeks, with the organization securing decorations and collecting food from an Indian restaurant in Atlanta.
Traditions that last a lifetime
The event would not be complete without all of the Diwali traditions, which members recognize as some of the most important parts of Diwali.
“I like to make rangolis. Rangoli is a traditional design that we make on the ground with rice, ”said Rai. “We create colorful patterns on the floor and we light lamps called diyas and that’s my favorite tradition. We also broke [fire]crackers.
Singh remembered this tradition from childhood.
“We lived on the balcony and we lit the candles all around and all the crackers and everything,” Singh said. “I love that part and also being able to wear new clothes.”
ISA’s Diwali Night was a real success and everyone enjoyed it. Tickets were sold for $ 17 as an early bird special until October 20 and $ 19 from that date. ISA members were allowed entry for free.
Diwali is one of the biggest events of the year for the ISA and, as Bajaj said, “It means home”.