It may be getting dark much sooner, but that doesn't mean we can't celebrate light! On November 10th, the Indian Student Association (ISA) hosted their annual Diwali, or festival of lights. This is one of the most celebrated Hindu festivals of India where there are five days of celebration, including wonderful food, song and dance. At UVM, attendees were able to encompass all five days of the triumph of good over evil in just one night.
This year marked the eleventh year that Diwali was put on by ISA and, since the start, the celebration has grown from 200 attendees to over 350. ISA has done a wonderful job of involving graduate students, UVM, and community members in many of their events.
According to northern India legend, Lord Rama slew his wife Sita's kidnapper, the demon King Ravana. The celebration marks the return of Lord Rama. Small lanterns, or diyas, lit the streets to welcome Lord Rama, which translates to homes being illuminated with diyas during current Diwali tradition. Lakhsmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is also worshipped and welcomed by decorating the entrances of homes with rangolis of colorful patterns and flowers.
ISA's Diwali program this year invited students to experience the special celebration through wonderful song and dance performed by various students and community members, including ISA President Aayudh Das and the phenomenal dancers of UVM's own Jazbaa. Following a delicious meal of Chana Maala — curry and naan bread — attendees enjoyed a Bollywood/Hollywood dance party of their own.
According to Aayudh Das, the event is a collective effort by ISA members, who represent more than six countries, majorly from India but also graduate students from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Mauritius, Tunisia and Nigeria. "It is a step forward in our efforts to recognize the diverse cultures on UVM's campus," he says, "as well as an attempt to highlight the international presence in our community. If someone outside of the Indian sub-continent asks what Diwali means, our simple reply has always been that it is the most popular Hindu festival which signifies the triumph of good over evil."
But there's more. "Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness," Das explains, "knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair. The mythical stories surrounding Diwali may vary regionally as well as traditionally within the Hindu religion. The rituals, however, are always tied to praying for knowledge, goodwill, peace and success."
The ISA is one of a handful of clubs recognized by the Graduate Student Senate (GSS). The club enables graduate students to share their interests and, in this case, beautiful culture with other students and community members of the Burlington area. This organization is more than ten years old this year and has grown exponentially in size, welcoming students from seven countries in the Indian subcontinent.
To learn more, participate in other events, or become a member (all are welcome), visit the ISA website at www.uvm.edu/~isa/, or their Facebook page, "Indian Student Association (University of Vermont)." As GSS President, I am thrilled to have such a successful organization share their culture, ideas and perspective while creating a sense of community.