UA Indian Student Association of Tuscaloosa celebrates Diwali


Courtesy of the Indian Student Association of Tuscaloosa

Abigail Forrest, Contributing Writer

The Indian Student Association of Tuscaloosa hosted the annual celebration of Diwali in the UA Student Center ballroom on Friday, Oct. 26, where they provided Indian dishes, music and performances. The event brought students from around campus together to engage with the Indian community on campus and in the area. 

“For the past 3 years I have been celebrating Diwali away from my home and family back in India. It is only natural to feel homesick during such a festive season. However, Diwali celebrations with the ISAT team and the UA family always brightens up my mood and adds joy to this day,” said Sandhiya Thiagarajan, a doctoral student in chemical engineering and the vice president of Indian Student Association of Tuscaloosa. 

According to BBC Newsround, the Indian holiday known as Diwali occurs in late October. The celebration lasts five days, starting on Oct. 22 and ending on Oct. 26 this year. The origin of the word Diwali comes from Sanskrit’s “deepavali,” which means “rows of lighted lamps.” In celebration of this holiday, there are oil lanterns lit throughout houses and in public places along with fireworks, sweets, dancing and feasts with family. 

The holiday includes celebrations from Hinduism and Sikhism. Hindus celebrate the return of the deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile; they also celebrate the day Mother Goddess Durga defeated a demon called Mahisha. This week is also used to worship the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, to bring them blessings for the new year.

Sikhs celebrate the release from prison of the sixth guru Hargobind Singh in 1619, but Sikhs celebrated before this event occured. Aside from the events previously mentioned, there have also been other occurrences that have happened on Diwali. For example, the foundation of the Golden Temple at Amritsar was laid on the first day of Diwali, and the Jains also use this day to celebrate when the founder of Jainism, Lord Mahavira, reached Nirvana, or eternal bliss. 

The Indian Student Association of Tuscaloosa started the night out with speeches from the host and co-host of the event that explained the process of the event and featured some of the performances that would take place. Then the event moved on to the feast that is traditional on Diwali. 

Some of the foods included were chicken tikka masala, samosas, pulao, which is rice with  spices, and a sweet dumpling. While the feast commenced, attendees watched many performances from small children and adults singing, dancing, and playing guitars, with many of these performances being solos or duets. 

“Diwali brings back some of my fondest childhood memories, of family gatherings, smell of delicious food, sweets and lighting diyas. With the ISAT team, we wanted to make this Diwali celebration memorable for years to come,” said Aditya Upreti, a doctoral candidate in physics and the president of the Indian Student Association of Tuscaloosa. “Through the collective efforts of an amazing team, and everyone who volunteered, we were able to spread joy through the festival of lights. As an icing on the cake, soon afterwards, the sky lit up with Diwali fireworks.”

Many students and families were there to celebrate the University’s Diwali event. There were people who have been participating in this event for their entire lives, people who recently started attending, and those who were invited by their friends to come and enjoy the multiple festivities. 

Aside from the food and performances, they also had a station setup where people volunteered to do henna at no cost. Patrons had many designs patrons to choose from, or they could also show the artists the specific design they wanted, or have the artist create a freehand design. At the end of the night the hosts of the event used big and bright fireworks to bring the holiday to a beautiful end. 

“This year, it was only bigger and grander. The presence of more than 500 people with some lip-smacking food and amazing decorations filled the absence of Indian festive vibes in all our heart,” Thiagarajan said. “Looking at the fireworks with friends like family will always be my favorite part of the celebrations. Thanks to the amazing ISAT team that helped us all cherish that day forever in our hearts.”