SASS lights up campus center with Diwali celebration


A wide angle of the Diwali event. SASS provided Indian food and an opportunity to get henna tattoos.

The South Asian Student Society celebrated Diwali on Thursday, Oct. 27, at the Henderson Campus Center from 7 p.m to 9 p.m. Diwali is a five-day celebration of light, a major cultural event for followers of Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism.

The Campus Center was lit up with rows of light above students and candles on each table where students enjoyed food from Tamarind, a restaurant in Oakland, Pittsburgh. Students also had the opportunity to get henna art done by students.

President of SASS Aveet Desai, ’23, explained that Diwali began as a celebration of the end of a war but has changed to become a “festival of light,” where family and friends celebrate togetherness, positive thinking and good practices.

“There is a lot that goes into Diwali that is more into the religious aspect but we want to celebrate more the core values of bringing positivity and I think that is something that everyone on campus can share whether you celebrate Diwali or not,” Desai said.

According to Desai, having cultural events is helpful for many students, especially international students because it allows them to stay connected with their culture and have a piece of home with them.

“Whenever I was home, Diwali would be the biggest celebration so having most of the people that were there be my friends or people I see around was really good to see,” Desai said. “I had the most fun seeing people who don’t know anything about the music or dancing enjoy themselves and the food.”

Through henna art, SASS Co-Public Relations Chair Devika Desai, ’26, was able to bring students a piece of her culture. Desai has been practicing her henna art skills for a year. Students had a few designs to choose from so that the artists could apply the henna efficiently.

“This event was my first time doing henna on other people and I was kind of scared but it turned out well,” Desai said. “In the olden times, it was mostly put on brides that were getting married to show a new part of their life starting, but now it is mostly done for celebration in Hindu culture.”

Desai shared with her family that she was able to celebrate Diwali on campus despite being far away from home.

“My mom was happy that I was able to do henna on campus because she knows how much I love it,” Desai said. “When my brother first came (to Allegheny), people here were mostly local American people and it was kinda scary because we didn’t know if we were going to be able to showcase our culture.”

While the Diwali event was successful, there were challenges when it came to its execution due to budget issues and last-minute changes.

Event Manager Ankitha Pamula, ’24, shared that food had been more expensive than before, so they had to replace many food items with others.

“From what I was told, last year, they paid less for food, but due to inflation the prices went up,” Pamula said. “The amount of food that we had planned before we cut down was nearly double and the amount paid was nearly double for the amount of food we got last year so that was a big shock.”

According to Devika Desai, the club also tried to do fireworks but could not get permission to do that. She explained that back home a big part of the event is being brought together to watch fireworks.

Despite the setbacks, SASS received a lot of encouragement from the IDEAS center to make the event well known by helping advertise. Pamula notices that there has been improvement in making sure people’s cultures are celebrated on campus.

“They gave an impression of them actually putting forth the effort to support us,” Pamula said. “Lisa Nicole Smith at the IDEAS Center reached out to me and wanted to stand with us and support us in the event and make it an event bigger than the SASS (so) that students outside the culture could also celebrate.”

Ella Horner, ’23, described her experience at the event as someone who is not part of a culture that celebrates Diwali.

“This is just a very nice experience for everybody because some people who have not been as lucky to experience an event like this get to now,” Horner said. “Events like this really bring the community at Allegheny together because different cultures can be celebrated and showcased.”

Devika Desai said that Allegheny has a lot more cultural events than other small colleges, and hopes to see more in the future.

“I know bigger colleges have more events because there is a bigger community of people of color but in comparison to other smaller colleges we definitely have had a lot more,” Desai said. “I love that in our community people are willing to experience new things and are open-minded.”