The Anderson Room of the Michigan Union was ablaze with tiny lights and hanging lanterns on Friday night in honor of the Indian Student Association’s Diwali celebration.
Diwali is celebrated in nearly all parts of India and it pays homage to Lord Rama, who returned to his kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile.
“It’s a welcome back celebration of sorts. And every time this year, we celebrate his homecoming,” Business junior and ISA events coordinator Deepa Sawlani said.
More than 350 people filled the Anderson Room and even more spilled out into the surrounding hallways.
The celebration kicked off with the lighting of sparklers to offer up light, which is a significant part of the celebration.
“Diwali is known all over as the ‘festival of lights,'” Sawlani said.
The lights are there to welcome Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity, and the goddess Kali, who the festival also honors, said Engineering senior Kunal Aggrawal, an ISA executive board member.
Following the lighting of the sparklers was the ceremonial prayer and prasad, which were accompanied by the traditional bhajan, a worship song specifically used during the festival.
“In India, on this day, we just worship and make a certain food which we call prasad. It is given up as an offering,” Engineering graduate student Ambal Jayaraman said.
Soon after the prayer the crowd settled onto the ground for the cultural show, which included various songs, dances, instrumentals and skits. A ceremonial dinner followed.
“Through events like these, the campus is becoming more aware of ISA … and that’s an excellent thing,” Sawlani said.
ISA is not to be confused with the Indian American Students Association, though the two groups work together on various events. ISA simply serves a different purpose.
“We aim to make international students feel comfortable. Diwali is a big function in India. We miss a lot of events back home so we bring the celebration here,” ISA member and LSA senior Dhaval Mehtha said.
The crowd was not only comprised of students but it included children, parents and grandparents as well.
“Here, people are just enjoying Diwali the way we are used to back home, with our families,” LSA freshman Suchi Sethi said.
“Its great that ISA combines religious activity and cultural activity. It’s a good way for people to learn more about our culture and how intertwined religion and culture really are,” Engineering graduate student Navin Gupta said.
Diwali signifies the renewal of life, and therefore, it is common to wear new clothes on the day of the festival. Likewise, it heralds the approach of winter and the beginning of the sowing system.