Students teaching their peers their traditional dances. Photo by Terry Ngai.
TIFFANY HOANG | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
Diwali, also known as the festival of light, signifies many different things for each culture that celebrates it. Butler’s South Asian Student Association (SASA) made sure not to miss celebrating this important holiday for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. The actual holiday took place on Sunday, Nov. 12, and while the festival normally takes place over five days, SASA held a one-night celebration for Diwali on Friday, Nov. 10, inviting students of all backgrounds to take part in this special festival.
Diwali is mostly celebrated in India, but some parts of South Asia also celebrate this important holiday. Even though the three religions interpret Diwali differently, each religion celebrates in some way.
In South India, Diwali represents the day the Hindu god Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. Others celebrate it as the marriage of Lakshmi and Vishnu or the birthday of Lakshmi. In North India, the festival celebrates the homecoming of the Hindu deity Rama. In Jainism, Diwali celebrates the day of the liberation of Mahavira’s soul from the cycle of life and death. For Sikhs, it is the return of Guru Hargobind from captivity.
In a typical Diwali celebration, such as the one held by SASA, feasts, fireworks, dances and praying occur. SASA typically holds this event every year, allowing students to participate in a celebration that is so important to many of their fellow Bulldogs.
At the event, there was first a dinner, where traditional Indian foods were served. There were speakers to explain the importance of Diwali and what it means to them on a personal level. The dance performance of the event was inarguably the highlight of most people’s night. The night concluded with a spectacular fireworks display where people could hold their own colorful spark. Additionally, there were diyas — oil lamps that represent the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance — which could be painted by those who attended the event. Henna — a form of temporary tattooing that uses henna tree leaves to design and dye the skin an auburn tone — was also available throughout the event.
Aum Patel, SASA’s co-president and a senior computer science and computer engineering double major, helped organize the event and noted how important the holiday is to him.
“It means a lot of family time and sharing culture,” Patel said.
The importance of Diwali is learned at a young age. The sense of community and emphasis to spend time with loved ones is never lost but only grows through the years.
Suchi Bandaru, SASA’s other co-president and a senior health sciences major, recounted childhood memories of Diwali.
“I remember growing up, every single Diwali, we would have a lot of family over and a bunch of Indian food,” Bandaru said. “We would eat together and [light] fireworks after. It was a time [when] we could come together.”
The co-presidents set the date for this year’s festival last academic year, proving how important this event is to SASA. In August, the organization brainstormed what the event should look like, allowing each member to incorporate their favorite traditions and ensuring that each attendee got a well-rounded experience.
Bandaru emphasized the importance of authenticity, such as with the henna and diya painting available at the event.
“We always want to make sure we have authentic food that everyone gets to try and have speakers so that the students can really learn about Diwali,” Bandaru said.
Speakers at the event are typically Butler faculty and staff members who have a personal connection to Diwali. This year, Nandita Das, a professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and someone who personally celebrates Diwali, spoke at the event and explained how Diwali is celebrated in different regions.
The organizers were excited to see how the event would come together after putting in the hard work for preparation, especially the dance performance. It was quite an interactive dance as those who were well-versed taught the moves to new people. Students were able to simultaneously learn and participate in a culture that may not be their own.
Many event goers who do not celebrate Diwali emphasized how important it is to embrace the differences of fellow Butler students’ cultures.
Lucia Mercado, a senior healthcare and business major, shared that sentiment.
“It’s always a great experience to be able to learn about other cultures in such a fun and interactive way,” Mercado said. “[The] dance was definitely the highlight of my night because I got to learn dance moves that have cultural significance and do it with my friends.”
Victoria Ludo, a first-year math major and international student from Venezuela, was amazed by the familiar sense of community that came from a completely different culture.
“It’s incredible that the [Diversity Center] and minority organizations were able to have such a huge event,” Ludo said. “We are able to embrace our differences, but at the same time, even though we are from different parts of the world, we realize we are not that different.”