The festival of lights reached all the way to the University campus this year, uniting students for naan, cake and dancing to celebrate Diwali.
Friday, the South Asian culture group Desi Mania lit up the Michigan Union’s Rogel Ballroom to throw the first annual Diwali Bash, an open-to-everyone celebration of Diwali, the festival that occurs each autumn and is considered one of the most important holidays in Hinduism.
Dressed in bright colors, students ate, danced and celebrated under the thousands of lights that lined the ballroom ceiling.
“Diwali is the festival of lights,” said LSA junior Aanchal Rai, co-president of Desi Mania. “It’s one of the most auspicious and important holidays in the Hindu religion.”
Business junior Smita Garg, the other co-president of Desi Mania, was outfitted in a studded-pink sari. She agreed with Rai’s description of Diwali.
“It celebrates the light coming into one’s life, so prosperity and well-being for yourself and your family,” Garg said.
Rai and Garg founded Desi Mania in January after realizing a new South Asian organization could serve to bring together students from across campus through cultural events. They wanted to make these events more accessible to the general public, not just students associated with South Asian clubs.
“Only South Asians would come (to South Asian events), so we wanted to expose others,” Rai said.
This is the first University group to host a Diwali celebration of this scale, Garg said, offering a chance for some students to continue traditions from home and providing a new cultural experience for others.
“This event is a great way to bring people together, people who have (celebrated) at home but who don’t necessarily have a platform to do that here,” Garg said.
Behind its wide cultural significance, the celebration of and meaning behind Diwali can differ based on personal ties or family traditions.
Engineering freshman Vedant Shah, who is from India, said this was his first time celebrating Diwali away from his family . He said it was a rare opportunity to enjoy cuisine familiar to home.
“Back home, people burst firecrackers,” Shah said. “The significance of this festival is basically good versus evil. It’s a good time for all Indian friends to wear traditional clothes, get together and have a good time.”
Engineering graduate student Deepak Singh also enjoyed attending the event. He added that his celebration of Diwali focuses on Rama, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu who is the source of all energy and light. Singh said he celebrates Rama’s return home from a 14-year-long period in exile.
“People celebrated by lighting deepaks, lights, and they lit the whole hometown with lamps,” Singh said of his Diwali celebrations at home.
Desi Mania likewise lit the whole Rogel Ballroom with lamps, providing a similar feeling for many students.
“We can feel home here, we can meet and greet more people,” Singh said. “Once in a while you need that kind of thing; these things bond people together.”