Deepawali- A hokie’s take on the Indian festival of lights

Diwali or more correctly Deepawali literally means ‘row of lamps’  and one has to witness it to understand that the most lingering image of diwali is the magnificent array of  lights that lines up the streets. Each and every Hindu household cleans their respective premises and decorate it with flowers and colorful ‘Rangolis’ during the days and with lamps during the moonless night. Legends claim that this is the celebration of Ayodhya on the return of their beloved Rama after fourteen years of banishment, after having triumphed over the evil kingdom of Ravana. Of course there are so many legends to disagree upon as to the origin of this festival but there cannot be any dispute on the festivities. New dresses, sparkling ornaments, delectable delicacies, fun and frolics, songs, dances and generalized merriment marks the day. Sparklers and crackers on the ground and dazzling display of fireworks in the sky illuminate the night, literally symbolizing the victory of brightness (hope) over the gloom of darkness.

My favorite memories are not limited to that one day,  but those in the run up. The plannings and shoppings, the selection of sweets and gifts for the near and dear ones; the anticipation of the return gifts and the ultimate reason for any celebrations, ‘food’ makes diwali very special. Homemade delectable as well as commercially available delicacies vie with each other to tease the taste buds and challenge the resolve of moderations. Over indulgence is the norm and cautions are to the winds. A true victory of the smile over the frown. A night to look forward to …To remember for many a days to come.

Last year during Deepawali, I was for the first time away from home, in a foreign land with new acquaintances who were yet to become friends. The alien culture was taking time to get internalized, strange land was yet to get familiar and life generally swung from the academic hectic-ness to the loneliness of the dorm. Things got really low on the day of Diwali, with no smell of goodies sweets, no sound of crackers, no telephonic greetings, nobody urging for an early shower before the puja. Oh! how I missed the organized madness that is my motherland in its most loveable lunatic frenzy that is Diwali. Actually any half a religious occasion is enough for India to take off into craziness but Diwali tops it all. It is Christmas, New Year, and Forth July rolled into one and multiplied fifty times over. I was in the psychological pits when somebody told me about the ISA’s 50th year Diwali celebrations. I immediately volunteered and immersed myself in the activities.  Around 2000 guests graced the occasion and the association excelled in way of lavish arrangements. Most of my non Indian friends danced to the beats of bollywood or enjoyed the display of fireworks. The normally nerds were magically metamorphosed into insane Indians enjoying every moment of the collective madness. For an evening I was back to the home land with a Sense of responsibility, pride for a great civilization that I hail from…

Though primarily a Hindu festival its cultural aspects transcend the narrow confines of the religious divide. The multiculturalism that is inherent in the common Indian Psyche is best demonstrated during these festivals. Perhaps the huge commercial spin-off of this festivity is largely also responsible this phenomenon but is certainly not the only reason for almost everyone eagerly awaiting the Diwali. At the ISA 50 Diwali bash I missed home a little less and learnt the need for building community and the importance of culture.

I was awakened to the idea of sharing of ideas and happinessand the utilization of the college milieu to nurture differences in cultures and yet celebrate the uniqueness of humanity. It fueled compassion, understanding and tolerance and the dawning of the realization that the global community cannot afford the remain disjointed due to the differences inspite of the wonderful glue of VASUDAIVA KUTUMBAKAM (universal extended family).

This year, as the cultural secretary of the ISA, I sit down reminiscing of the past year and all that was learnt. As a committee, ISA strives to assimilate all possible flavors and to present before its audience a mélange of indian tradition. I look forward to seeing many a fellow hokie , Indian or otherwise, at the event. Celebrating life and its jubilations…


Diwali- A celebration of Lights

As the colors and lights sparkle up newer dreams,
As the sweet taste lingers on the palette long after the confectionery,
The heart beats in joyous exhilaration, for the festival of joy and mirth and color and lights is upon us…

 The festival of lights is one that lights up the entire Indian subcontinent, this time of the year. As Indians living away from our motherland, most of us yearn to relive those joyous moments of Diwali. The ISA Deepawali celebration is one of the most popular Indian celebrations at Tech.

The past years’ Diwali celebration have had fireworks illuminate the skies, the aromas of Indian delectable wade through the air and scintillating performances entertain mesmerized audiences through the night. This year, on November 16th, the ISA hopes to organize yet another successful Diwali event with the flair and flamboyance that the occasion.

The mythology behind Diwali is one that manages to engage a global audience, despite its Indian roots. The victory of good over evil epitomizes the triumph of all things pure and truthful. The lords are said to celebrate the joyful conquest with dance and merriment and lighting of lamps to usher in warmth and elation after a period of tribulations.

The Diwali celebration draws in a sense of community amongst the Indians studying at VT. The ISA with its committee members have the passion and fervor reignited by student volunteers and performers. The entire event is student led and managed. Students, in the past have come together to coordinate, organize, synchronize, celebrate and smile. Many positions of responsibilities are entrusted upon young shoulders eager to make the event a hit. The Diwali celebration is also a cultural exchange of sorts as Indians proudly showcase their country, appealing to the receptive senses of those not traditionally accustomed to the celebrations.

While some come for the fireworks, to watch the entire sky atop the drillfield light up with lights so vibrant and effervescent; others come by for the exotic Indian cuisine that is offered at the celebration. And as the luminosities light up foreign skies, leaving each heart aglow with a sense of belonging and that of extended family at a place, we now know as home-VirginiaTech.