Campus celebrates Diwali


Emily Rice

Students light candles in Henderson Campus Center to celebrate Diwali on Nov.13, 2018.

For Secretary of the South Asian Student Society Rithikaa Sree Jamigumpala, ’22, Diwali represents happiness.

Diwali, a five-day festival celebrated by followers of Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism is known as the festival of lights. Every autumn, millions celebrate light prevailing over darkness with fireworks, decorating candles and putting various lights on display.

“We celebrate the joy of light, taking the darkness out and bringing in the positivity,” Jamigumpala said.

Though SASS, in collaboration with the International Club, International Education Office and Spiritual and Religious Life, could not host a full five-day festival, Jamigumpala said the groups wanted to bring the “effect” of the Diwali celebration to campus. Community members gathered to celebrate through rangoli artwork, decorating diyas and other activities on Nov. 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Henderson Campus Center lobby.

Co-President of SASS, Medha Nag, ’20, said this was the first campus-wide celebration of Diwali since she arrived at Allegheny. In previous years, members of SASS, formerly known as the South Asian Club, would travel to Pittsburgh to celebrate Diwali.

“From what I know, South Asian Club has always done something for Diwali, but it’s always been very closed to the members (of the club) or even specifically the board members,” Nag said.

Nag said during her first two years at Allegheny, the board members of the South Asian Club traveled to Pittsburgh for the Diwali celebration held at Sri Venkateswara Temple.

“But I really wanted to bring it (to Allegheny),” Nag said. “As a club, we weren’t really sharing our culture, and that’s kind of our mission statement, is to share our culture … I think this was the first legitimate Diwali celebration on campus.”

Traditionally, firecrackers are the most essential aspect of the celebration, according to Nag. As the firecrackers are lit, the light casts over darkness, symbolizing the triumph of light over dark, or good over evil, which is the central theme of Diwali.

Since this was the first year SASS held a Diwali celebration, the club did not include firecrackers because of the special permission required, according to Nag. However, because of its importance to the Diwali tradition, Nag said she hopes it will be incorporated into future Diwali celebrations at Allegheny.

This year, one of the activities community members participated in was rangoli artwork. Typically created on the ground with materials such as colored sand or rice, rangolis are decorative and common of Diwali celebrations, according to Nag.

Instead of crafting them on the ground, the celebration sponsors provided small sheets of paper with varying designs. They also supplied colored sand and glue so people could create their personal rangolis on the paper.

Along with rangolis, community members could decorate their own diyas, another essential component to Diwali celebrations. Nag described diyas as small clay pots that people can paint and place candles inside.

Other activities not necessarily associated with Diwali celebrations were also featured at the event. Toward the front of the campus center lobby, community members lined up to receive mehendi, or henna tattoos.

“We realized that mehendi was one thing that people really enjoyed, and Diwali is about enjoyment,” Nag said. “So we decided to have mehendis.”

Nag said Diwali is a family and community-oriented celebration. A polaroid photo booth was also featured near the front of the lobby. This aspect of the celebration was a popular attraction as people posed with friends and props, according to Nag.

Last but not least — the food. Amidst the music and activities at the celebration, guests enjoyed biryani, samosas and dessert catered by Erie’s Darjeeling Kitchen.

“We were not expecting that big of a crowd,” said Co-President of SASS Sweta Rauniyar, ’21. “I was genuinely very happy to see the response. It actually motivated me, like, ‘OK …  we can represent our culture.”

Nag also thought the event was a success and said she hopes SASS will do even more next year to continue improving the celebration for community members.

“Next time around, we’re going to try to make it more of a celebration,” Nag said. “Because we have Diwali parties a lot, so hopefully we could book Schultz Banquet Hall or something like that so we could have more music, a little more dancing and stuff like that.”