For those who celebrate Diwali, the festival marks a time when the darkness of the world was vanquished by the return of the prince and deity Lord Rama.
“That’s why it’s generally known as the festival of lights,” said Nita Shah, an administrative assistant with the Global Scholars Program.
More than 100 students gathered in North Quad Residence Hall on Wednesday to celebrate the holiday, an Indian festival celebrated by people of the Hindu, Sikh and Jain religions.
The Michigan Sahana and Maya Dance Team performed at an event LSA senior Sindhu Kadhiresan called a sort of equivalent to Christmas. She said there was a shortage of Diwali celebrations on campus this year, which she said was may have been due to the busy time of year the festival fell on.
“It’s important for us to show people on campus how it holds the same value,” Kadhiresan said. “The University doesn’t really encourage giving us time off to celebrate it, so people are busy or it gets overshadowed, amongst other things.”
The holiday is often celebrated by lighting lamps around the house and receiving blessings from elders. Like many holidays, food is also a key part of the celebration.
Shah said hosting a celebration like Diwali at the University is an important way of reflecting the campus’ diverse community.
“It is often found that we are not well represented in many ways, and in order to show how are lives are more similar than different it’s important that we share our celebrations with a community that may not necessarily know what Diwali is all about,” she said. “It’s important to allay any fears or misrepresentations of the festival as well.”
Kadhiresan said this is the first Diwali she is spending without connecting with her family in some way.
“I was actually talking to my mom this morning and she was really missing us,” she said. “It’s the first year we’re not completely together. I really wish I could be with my family at this time because it’s the same thing as other people being with their families for Christmas or for Ramadan. It would be nice to be able to go home and see them.”
While she understands that the University cannot accommodate every religious holiday with time off, Kadhiresan said the University should acknowledge the large Indian Hindu population on campus.
“It’s actually kind of disappointing,” she said. “But I think it’s kind of the tradition in American school systems to not really give days off for Diwali. It would probably be possible to coordinate one long weekend off for Diwali.”
LSA freshman Ayla Ahmed and Engineering freshman Arthi Nadhan said while they enjoyed the event at North Quad, they did not feel it accurately represented the festival.
“I thought there could have been more light, personally,” Ahmed said.
Nadhan, who had performed at the event as a part of Michigan Sahana, said she also was looking forward to seeing more lights at the event, since Diwali is considered the festival of lights.
“I actually knew a lot about the holiday, since I celebrate it at home,” Nadhan said. “But it was nice seeing that people came and celebrated it here.”