Excitement and colored lights greeted members of the Indian
Students Association on Friday during a celebration of Diwali,
which some members see as a new beginning.

Mira Levitan
The Indian Students Association celebrates Diwali with traditional Indian music and singing at the Michigan League on Friday. (ASHLEY HARPER/Daily)

“Diwali is the biggest event in India. It’s like
Christmas here,” said LSA sophomore Uday Ahuja.

Diwali is celebrated in honor of the return of the exiled god
Ram, one of the three most important gods in the Hindu
religion.

“Almost every Hindu person is a devotee of Ram,”
said Ashish Deshpande, ISA core member and graduate engineering
student.

Diwali is often referred to as the festival of lights. According
to Hindu legend, Ram was welcomed back from the wilderness with the
illumination of the city. Nowadays, celebrants honor the
god’s homecoming by lighting oil lamps and fireworks in
accordance with the rituals practiced in India.

Preparations for the celebration began nearly six months prior
to the event. Despite this foresight, ISA was forced to postpone
its celebration due to scheduling conflicts. Worldwide, the
beginning of Diwali was actually observed on Oct. 25.

Nearly all regions of India commemorate Diwali as a five-day
festival marked by family gatherings, the new year and extensive
lighting around the household.

“This was symbolic of coming into a new beginning,”
Deshpande said.

Another beginning Diwali marks is the onset of the new fiscal
year. A prayer called Pooja, directed at the goddess of wealth,
ensures financial security in the upcoming year, said Bharti
Bothra, an Engineering junior.

“You praise (the goddess Laxmi) so you get wealth
throughout the year,” Bothra added.

Although the event began with prayer, the social aspect
eventually became more prominent than the spiritual.

The program held by ISA was mostly cultural, Deshpande said.
“There is only a small religious aspect to this
event.”

Following the prayer was a skit depicting and satirizing the
experiences of international students.

“The skit showed humorous situations in the daily life of
an Indian student at the University,” Deshpande said.

Afterward, a cultural dance show was performed, with a dozen
dancers participating in the program.

“(The performance) was a modernized dance to current hit
numbers in India,” Deshpande said. The participants all wore
traditional Indian garb in honor of their cultural background.

The night’s festivities concluded with dinner provided by
Madras Masala and a dance party for ISA members.

Preceding Friday’s events, ISA displayed an exhibit at
Pierpont Commons.

“We displayed things about and around Diwali. It was an
informational booth to build up to tonight’s events,”
Deshpande said.

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