Students found the hero in themselves as they gathered for Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights, on Main Mall Wednesday night.
Hosted by the Hindu Students Association, this year’s Diwali festival celebrated the heroic themes in ancient Indian epic “Ramayana.” In the epic, the demon king Ravana is conquered by Prince Rama, emphasizing good overpowering evil, said Jigar Patel, Hindu Students Association president. He said the festival’s theme, “The Hero in You,” allowed students to recognize their own heroic qualities.
“We want to educate people about the traditions of the festival and recognize the values of Hinduism,” chemical engineering senior Patel said. “For Hindu students, this festival is also a meaningful reminder of home.”
To begin Diwali, students mingled while drinking chai, a tea that originated in India. Hindu and non-Hindu students then sat in front of the tower to participate in Homam Pooja, a prayer to the Hindu goddess Lakshmi.
“I normally celebrate Diwali at home with diya lamps and the Pooja, so I appreciate having Diwali on campus,” neuroscience junior Diya Datta said. “This event is great for Hindu students who are away from home and want to experience their culture, because I know it’s easy to get home sick. Seeing people who look like me and are celebrating the same festival also makes me feel like I’m at home.”
Due to wet weather, the fireworks for the event were canceled, but students still lit sparklers to represent the theme of light’s victory over darkness in “Ramayana.” The Hindu Students Association is the only student organization allowed to launch fireworks off the tower, said Hiranmayee Buyyanapragada, Hinduism Awareness Week co-chair.
“It can be hard to hold on to Hindu practices when you’re far away from home,” mathematics junior Buyyanapragada said. “We want to provide an avenue for students to celebrate in college. We also want to emphasize unity, teaching students that the values of Hinduism are similar to those of other cultures.”
The festival also offered dance performances, Indian food and educational booths for hundreds of students regardless of their cultural background.
“I do not practice Hinduism, but I wanted to experience the festival to learn and become more understanding of another culture,” said Natalie Briceno, art and entertainment technologies freshman. “As students, if we do not reach outside of our cultural awareness, we cannot understand and communicate with others as effectively as we’d like.”
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly described Homam Pooja. The Texan regrets this error.