Indian Student Association hosted its 45th annual Diwali celebration on Nov. 5, bringing bright lights, delicious foods, and an air of festivity to Dallas Hall Lawn. With 668 students and nearly 300 community members in attendance, this year’s celebration marks the largest in SMU history.
Diwali, sometimes known as the “festival of lights,” is generally celebrated with the practice of lighting oil lamps, called dias, and decorating homes and cities with strings of twinkling lights to symbolize the victory of light over darkness. While many Hindus celebrate Diwali, people of various faiths mark the five-day festival in India and other countries.
Despite being rooted in religious tradition, the festival has also become a secular holiday in India, similar to how Christmas has come to be celebrated by many Christians and non-Christians alike in the U.S. While ISA’s celebration remained secular, Hindu students were invited to engage in religious practices of prasad and puja led by Dr. Dinesh Rajan, Department Chair and Professor for Electrical and Computer Engineering, and organized through the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life on Thursday.
At Friday night’s celebration, those in attendance were greeted with opportunities to get henna tattoos, light sparklers, create paper lanterns, and taste a broad selection of South Asian cuisine. They were also invited to take home gift packages consisting of a dia, tea light, and paint pens to decorate, along with t-shirts and stickers handed out at the event.
Throughout the event, attendees enjoyed four 10-minute creative performances from both SMU and University of Texas at Dallas students. Kicking off the celebration, ISA’s freshman and sophomore members performed a classical Bharatanatyam dance and then shifted into more contemporary Bollywood dances. They were followed by UTD’s acapella group, “Dhunki,” and dance team, “Raftaar,” both of whom compete on a national stage for their respective arts. The final performance featured a South Asian fashion show organized by SMU graduate students.
“I was just really, really excited that we were able to get the full Dallas community here on SMU’s campus,” ISA President Surya Ramakrishnan said. “It really touched people that we had an event as big as this.”