As dance shoes were laced up, and the McLaren lobby filled with students practicing their dance moves, iPhone speakers blared music from a variety of clashing genres. D Se Dance from the Bollywood film Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania played on one side of the room, while members of the Indian Student Organization (ISO) who were dressed in traditional Indian costume, practiced for a dance routine that they were about to present for the annual Diwali celebration.
Diwali, or “The Festival of Lights,” is a Hindu celebration that takes place during autumn and symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, of good versus evil.
Although there are many interpretations of the origin of the celebration, Mohak Singh, ISO’s former president, says he learned that the festival comes from celebrating the return of a king who was exiled from his kingdom by a man who forcefully took over the throne. Once the king returned to the kingdom from exile, to return to his rightful position, the residents of the kingdom lit candles along the path to celebrate his return.
This year’s event was attended by fewer people, which some members attribute that to not receiving the same marketing funds as the previous year’s event. There were fewer posters around campus to alert students about the festival. Student Leadership and Engagement (SLE) dispersed the funds to put on the event, and SLE employee Patricia Kealy said that they lowered the amount of marketing funds for all campus events. SLE also mentioned that even though they did reduce the amount of funds allocated for the event, it was because ISO had conveyed that they needed enough funds for 150 people, unlike last year, when they had asked enough for 200 people.
Those who were able to attend tasted Indian curries catered by Bon Appétit, visited a henna booth, and observed the dance that was being rehearsed in the lobby only an hour earlier. ISO is currently perfecting this same routine so that they are prepared to present it at Culturescape in November, which is being hosted by International Student Association.
Nicolas Salamanca, a freshman student from Colombia, is not involved in ISO but is still glad that cultural organizations are willing to put on these sorts of events for all students, particularly freshmen. “There are a lot of international students on campus, and when you have events like these I think it motivates people to not only go, but create and host their own events where they can showcase their own cultures,” says Salamanca, who plans on attending more events such as this one as long as he is made aware of them.
Diwali is one of two large Hindu festivals that are widely recognized for their elaborate festivities, the other being Holi, which is a spring festival that is marked by participants chasing each other around with bright dry powder colors, representing the vividness of the season. President of ISO, Divya George, says that Holi is also celebrated on campus, with students dressed in throwaway clothes congregating to Welch Field for the festivities. Last year’s Holi celebration drew a good amount of students who are not a part of ISO, something George is proud of and constantly makes a goal for each event.
After the dance was presented, and guests had the opportunity to try some of the Indian cuisine, McLaren was turned into a nightclub with flashing disco lights and contemporary Top 40 songs heard blasting throughout the center. Latecomers decided to join in, and Singh welcomed it, saying, “Indians are very big on dance. It’s a very big part of our culture because that’s how we bond together, you just eat and you dance. For these things, we want people to join in, we want people to know we have this incredibly fun side to us.”
George echoed Singh’s feelings, saying that every event will always be better if people from different backgrounds get involved. “Because if not, it’d be boring,” said George.