More than 80 GGU students gathered on campus this week to attend Diwali, India’s Festival of Lights, decked out sarees and kurta jackets in light pink, baby blue, lilac, and gold.
“A lot of work has gone into arranging everything and without your support of being here none of this would be possible,” said Ravi Parmar, Student Government Association (SGA) President and International Student Ambassador, to attendees. “The festival of Diwali is a big celebration in India for anyone who belongs to the religion of Hindu. It’s celebrated across the globe.”
Co-hosted by the SGA and International Student Services, the event was held in the University Center and featured food, music, and twinkling lights.
Student volunteers created stunning rangoli decorations, colorful designs made of sand art. Rangoli are eye-catching designs made with colored rice, flour, powder, sand, or flower petals traditionally assembled on the floor of a home or courtyard.
“How many of you know what Diwali is?” asked Ravi to the crowd as the event began.
“I think it’s a very proud and fun celebration that everyone gets involved in,” shared one student participant, an uninitiated Diwali celebrant.
“That’s right,” said Ravi, “It’s coming all together, celebrating, being a family.”
The festivities began with a skit that re-enacted the five-day festival’s origin story.
“Diwali is a significant Hindu festival celebrated by millions of people around the world,” explained one of the skit’s narrators. “It signifies the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. Diwali is also associated with various legends and stories with one of the most of the most prominent being the return of Lord Ram and his defeat of the demon king Ravana following his epic 14 years of exile as told in the ancient Sanskrit epic Ramayana.”
Following the skit, students participated in two dance performances to popular Bollywood and Telugu songs, the latter led by students from Hyderabad, one of the many regions where the popular language Telugu is spoken. Later, students sang songs from across India that represented a mix of the North, South, East, and West cultures that many Indian students might not experience back home. A rousing game of Bingo—called Tombola in India—followed that merged the rules for Bingo with Tombola.
“We have a lot of students who are from India, and they absolutely miss being back home for Diwali when they are with their families, decorating the house, there’s music, there’s food. They captured all of that into the event,” reflected Shruthika Subramanian, an MS Project Management student. “I think it was a very nostalgic event for people who have left home and are here, so I absolutely loved it. We should have more of these events that celebrate festivals of all ethnicities as well.”
The event concluded with a complete Indian delicacies buffet ordered from Tabla restaurant in San Mateo that represented an eight-course meal with dishes representing different states.
“The feedback I got from international students is that we don’t feel like we’re away from home today,” said Ravi. “Every one of our friends is at the same table having a meal together. That’s what Diwali is about. The involvement of the community and everyone knows one another.”
“I’m delighted that we can bring students together to celebrate Diwali, India’s biggest holiday of the year,” said Provost Magid. “Events like this one create community, celebrate diversity, and enhance our students’ academic experience. I look forward to building community at GGU through many more cultural events, on-campus programming, and in-person interaction.”