About 200 students celebrate Diwali

Abhilash Kolla, computer science senior, and Sindhu Thandra,computer science graduate student, yell and cheer on their friends during the traditional Diwali celebration, sat, Nov. 6, 2017, at the Sikes Lake Center. Photo by Sara Keeling

Abhilash Kolla, computer science senior, and Sindhu Thandra,computer science graduate student, yell and cheer on their friends during the traditional Diwali celebration, sat, Nov. 6, 2017, at the Sikes Lake Center. Photo by Sara Keeling

To honor the Hindu celebration, the Midwestern Indian Students Association organized a Diwali, the Festival of Lights, celebration for students at the Sikes Lake Center on Nov. 4.

Gyaneshwar Malba, computer science graduate student, explained that MISA has had a history of organizing Dawali for students on campus.

“In Dawali, we get together, we celebrate together,” Malba said. “We buy new clothes and appliances like you guys do during Christmas. We also give gifts to friends and family.”

The Diwali celebrations has deep cultural roots, and Malba said those who celebrate honor of Lord Rama, who was exiled from his kingdom and returned after defeating Ravana and lamps filled the city for his return.

According to Malba, Dawali provides an opportunity for people to come together and receive new gifts. Despite the cultural and religious foundation, many non-Hindu students enjoyed the celebration experience.

“I don’t really have a set religion, but I enjoy learning about other cultures and religion is a part of the culture,” Conney Vargas, marketing senior, said. “My mom’s Catholic, and my dad’s Buddhist, so I was raised under both of those religions. Although Buddhism isn’t really a religion. I really like Diwali. I don’t know why they are celebrating this, but I like it.”

Not only celebrated in India, countries like Nepal, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Canada, Australia and even the United States come together to celebrate the Festival of Lights, and according to Sindhu Thandra, computer science master, it’s a day that represents good prevailing over evil to many Hindus.

“We believe that in the destruction of evil, we celebrate Diwali,” Thandra said. “It gives us a lot of happiness in the Hindu community.”

To offer Indian students to opportunity share their culture as well as offer students to experience the cultural diversity on campus, Thandra said MISA provides a “beneficial community” to spread culture.

“We can gather, celebrate and feel happy meeting all different people from many different countries,” Thandra said. “A community is very important, and we are happy to share our culture.”

The event kicked off with a competition of five different Kolam artworks that were created by the different members of MISA. Kolam art pieces combine rice flour and chalk to depict geometric shapes and figures with bold colors.

Members of the Baptist Students Ministry on campus also attended Dawali in support of MISA, and Gabby Stokes, nursing junior, said the “cool event” allowed students the opportunity to learn about other cultures and support other organizations.

As a Christian, Strokes said being a part of the Hindu celebration was interesting, and many students were fascinated by the traditional and modern Indian dances as well as traditional food that was from Hyderabad house, Biryani Place in Irving, Texas.

“It’s cool to learn about their culture and where they come from,” Stokes said. “It’s just so different. My favorite part is all the dancing and the saris.”

The traditional dances were mostly from South India, and Khaleequnnissa Khan, psychology sophomore, got to dance at the event and said  it was a “thrill” to participate in the event.

Gayatri Bhimani, Keerthi Reddy Gangidi and Tejaswi Singman, computer science graduate students, enjoy the celebration of the traditional holiday Diwali at the Sikes Lake Center, Sat, Nov. 6, 2017. Photo by Sara Keeling

Gayatri Bhimani, Keerthi Reddy Gangidi and Tejaswi Singman, computer science graduate students, enjoy the celebration of the traditional holiday Diwali at the Sikes Lake Center, Sat, Nov. 6, 2017. Photo by Sara Keeling

“I’ve done Indian dances before,” Khan said. “It was nice to do it again after high school.”

While Khan is Muslim, she said she was more than happy to be a part of Diwali in celebration of Indian culture rather than the religious sense, which is an incredible facet the Festival of Lights offers to students.

“I’ve grown up in India for the past eight years,” Khan said. “I like the culture and both, and my parents are Indian as well.”

The audience was also participating in the best dress competition for men and women. The winner of the women’s competition was Catherine Stringfellow, computer science professor, and the winner of the men’s contest was Nelson L. Passos, computer science professor and graduation coordinator.

According to Vargas, the event coordinators asked the best dressed men and women to participate in a dance, and said it was a “fun way of including the crowd.”

Runner-up of the women’s competition, Tina Johnson, associate computer science professor, said she had a very fun experience dancing.

“It was a lot of fun and a little bit embarrassing,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I really qualified to be a finalist. I think the students were just being nice.”

Events like the Dawali celebration offer vital tools for students to experience the cultural diversity  on campus, and Vargas said she learned so much from the event.

“I strongly believe that when you go to college, you will be experiencing new cultures,” Vargas said. “This is the first time I’ve attended a Hindu celebration and it was fun learning a little bit about their culture and a little bit about their religion. You go to college to learn, in my opinion, learning about other cultures is one of the most important things an individual can ever learn.”

 

Comments

  1. It’s Diwali, not Dawali

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