Students celebrate Diwali with cultural dances and by painting henna on other attendees. photos by Brayden McCoy

Good wins over evil in campus Hindu celebration

The University of Tulsa celebrates Diwali, a Hindu festival about the victory of light over darkness, good over evil.

Diwali is a Hindu festival that lasts for five days and is celebrated during the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika which usually falls between October and November. This year it began Oct. 27 and was celebrated at the University of Tulsa with a festival on Nov. 1. Diwali coincides with new year celebrations for some cultures, and is a festival of new beginnings and the victory of light over darkness, good over evil.

The word Diwali originated from the Sanskrit word “Deepavali,” which translates to “rows of lighted lamps.” The festival held at TU is hosted by the Indian Student Association. The event is complex and takes a lot of planning. The Indian Student Association usually beginning planning around late August.

The festival began with ISA giving a short background and introduction of the festival, and then the feast. Everyone lines up for food, which was catered by the Indian restaurant Tandoori Guys. The food was loved by most of the students in attendance and the favorite of ISA executive Davyani Srivastava is gulab jamun, a milk-based solid dessert that is soaked in a syrup.

Celebrating the festival at TU helps establish the university as a home away from home for students from India or from Indian families, as well as introducing the vibrant culture to others. The festival is very unifying and is celebrated by almost all of India, regardless of their religion, language or ethnicity.

“Especially for Indian students at TU, it is a way to reconnect with culture through food, friends, tradition and dancing,” said Srivastava.

The festival is an incredibly bright and vibrant occasion with the lamps, sparklers and fireworks lighting up the night in revelry. It is often accompanied with prayer and dance, and sometimes dance as a form of prayer. After all, they say dance is a universal language.

Among the dances danced at TU’s Diwali festival was Bharatnatyam, one of the oldest and most popular forms of Indian classical dance. It originated in South India and is one of the eight forms recognized by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, which is a national level academy for the performing arts in India. The dance itself expresses South Indian religious themes and spiritual ideas, particularly of Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism.

According to Srivastava, dance is considered one of the purest forms of worship.

Even the clothing is important during Diwali. Red is commonly worn as it is a very sacred color in Indian culture, and other special colors and clothes are worn to bring out the “inner light.” There are many different types of clothes worn during the festival, with some women wearing elegant sarees made from vibrant silks or chiffon, and men wearing classic kurta and dhoti. Regardless of the type of clothing worn, the goal is that it reflects excitement and joy during the festival.

The festival is commonly associated with Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity, but regional variants also associate it with other deities such as Rama, Vishnu, Krishna, Durga or Kali. Homes are lit with diyas, in order to leave no room for darkness, and new clothes are worn in order to celebrate the prosperity brought by Lakshmi. The form of prayer known as pooja or puja is observed throughout the festival as w

Post Author: Brayden McCoy