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Festival marks Indian holiday

Charlie Ducey | Monday, November 18, 2013

The Indian Association of Notre Dame (IAND) delivered a sense of traditional Indian culture to the ballroom in the LaFortune Student Center with a Diwali Celebration on Sunday night.

The Diwali celebration, known as “The Festival of Lights,” included a prayer service, a dinner of Indian cuisine and a dance celebration featuring Indian music.
The Diwali celebration holds great importance to people all across India from a variety of faiths, including Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism.

“Diwali is one of the most important festivals in India, marking the end of the Indian calendar,” Indian Association faculty advisor Jindal Shah said.

Five organizations came together to sponsor the Diwali event: the Graduate Student Union, International Student Service and Activities, Campus Ministry and the Indian Association of Notre Dame. The Student Activities Organization (SAO) helped provide the venue for the evening in the LaFortune Ballroom, and Campus Ministry sponsored the Diwali celebration as part of the Prayer from Around the World Series.

Prof. Shah began the event with an explanation of the origins of Diwali. He said the story of Diwali spans back into Indian lore and the tale of King Dashratha, whose eldest son Rama was betrothed to the beautiful Sita and was set to inherit the kingdom. However, Rama was exiled by his jealous stepmother for 14 years. Meanwhile, the demon king Ravana kidnapped Sita, leading to a fierce battle between Rama and Ravana that ended in Rama’s victory and the return of his bride Sita.

“The people lit candles to mark the return of Rama and Sita, creating the festival of lights that announces the triumph of good over evil,” Shah said. “In the story, Ravana embodies all that is evil, and Rama embodies all that is good.”

Graduate student Gaurav Nigam, co-president of IAND, said the Diwali festival required about a month of planning and sought to fulfill several goals.

“We wanted to make everyone aware of the Indian festivals and make the Indian students feel at home because we don’t get to celebrate Indian festivals in America very often,” Nigam said.

Nigam said the Indian Association typically hosts two major festivals each year.

Suresh Vishwanath, a chemical engineering graduate student and co-president of IAND, said those who celebrate Diwali pray for well-being and blessing on this occasion. Attendees of the Diwali celebration at Notre Dame came from many faiths and regions.

“Some people here today faced two to three hour drives to help set up and be with us today,” Vishwanath said.

Contact Charley Ducey at cducey@nd.edu