Diwali Festival of Lights: ‘let the light in your life’

Taylor Surine, Staff Writer

A display of Indian crafts at the Diwali Festival of Lights. Taylor Surine. Nov. 4, 2016

Armstrong’s Symposium on India, which included several events from Nov. 2–4, closed with a traditional Hindu celebration: the Diwali Festival of Lights. The International Student Organization (ISO) hosted the festival Friday, Nov. 4 that attracted a diverse group of students to eat, dance, craft and learn about the festival’s history.

Lavanya Bollam, a graduate student in Public Health and active member of the ISO, was helping serve different native Indian dishes.

“We have snacks, desserts and lunch, but the most important part of the meal for the Diwali Festival is dessert. The sweets represent being kind and extending greetings to family and friends,” Bollam said.

She explained that happiness and prosperity are what the Diwali Festival is all about. The lights, sparklers, firecrackers and lamp-lighting rituals all represent good fortune.

Graduate student in Computer Science and member of ISO, Muthumeena Muthiah, explained the way the festival is celebrated in India:

“Traditionally, the Diwali Festival is a celebration to bring in the Hindu New Year and a formal chance to let the light in your life and rid yourself of evil. It is a time to spend with family and friends, much like the United States’ Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays.”

Head of the crafting station was Nalanda Roy, a professor in Criminal Justice specializing in International Relations. She was showing students sculptures and crafts and explained the significance of this art in Indian culture.  Students were able to color decorations and chalk the sidewalk in colorful flowers much like is done in the Hindu tradition during the Diwali Festival in India.

Jessica Young, president of the ISO and double major in both Spanish and Radiology talked about the purpose of events like this one.

“We have a lot of international students right here at Armstrong. We want to get them acclimated to American traditions while also exposing Americans to their traditions. This makes all cultures understand each other better and improve relations between them.”

Many members of the ISO explained the importance of sharing cultures and hope that events like the Symposium on India will inspire students to want to travel abroad. The Indo-American exchange program is vital to improving and maintaining positive relationships between India and the United States.

Earlier this week, the Symposium on India featured The Honorable Consul General of India Nagesh Singh as a guest lecturer for three events. A film screening of “Court” also took place Wednesday, Nov. 2, focusing on the institutional justice system of India.

Though this week was dedicated to the celebration of the Symposium on India, the ISO will hold more events celebrating other cultures. Starting Monday, Nov. 14, the International Student Organization will begin International Week 2016.

For more information, contact the Office of International Education at international.education@armstrong.edu.