Diwali celebration highlights Indian culture and community

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Diwali celebration highlights Indian culture and community

Neeharika Tipparaju (left) and Karina Harchandani (right) dancing a duet performance for Diwali celebration Nov. 16 in LBJ Ballroom. Photo credit: Abby Gutierrez

Neeharika Tipparaju (left) and Karina Harchandani (right) dancing a duet performance for Diwali celebration Nov. 16 in LBJ Ballroom. Photo credit: Abby Gutierrez

Neeharika Tipparaju (left) and Karina Harchandani (right) dancing a duet performance for Diwali celebration Nov. 16 in LBJ Ballroom. Photo credit: Abby Gutierrez

Neeharika Tipparaju (left) and Karina Harchandani (right) dancing a duet performance for Diwali celebration Nov. 16 in LBJ Ballroom. Photo credit: Abby Gutierrez

Abby Gutierrez

The Indian Student Association hosted its annual Diwali celebration—also known as the festival of lights—marking the victory of India’s triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.

To celebrate Diwali, Indian culture and the act of loving people, the ISA invited the Texas State community to join by listening to Indian music, watching dance performances and tasting traditional Indian foods. Diwali took place from 6-9 p.m. Nov. 16 at the LBJ Ballroom.

Computer science professor Moonis Ali has been the faculty adviser for ISA for 15 years. Ali said the significance of Diwali goes beyond a cultural celebration.

“(Diwali) is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness, the victory of good over evil and the victor of knowledge over ignorance,” Ali said.

Ali said Diwali is celebrated for religious reasons as well. People who practice Hinduism may worship Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth.

“On this day in India, there are millions of lights (lit up),” Ali said. “The idea is to let the light take over the darkness and remove the darkness from the whole country.”

Over the past 15 years, Ali said he has seen an increase in nearly 200 people attending the event. He said the occasion has had as many as 550 people show up in the most recent years.

“I hope (people attend) for the enjoyment of Indian culture, the taste of Indian food and feelings of love for all of humankind,” Ali said.

Karina Harchandani, co-president of ISA, performed two dances to Bollywood-styled songs and a speech at Diwali.

“This time is really about being with family and the ones you love and care about,” Harchandani said. “I love to show off my culture. I expect a lot of fun and smiles. We hope to extend our community to those who don’t really know our community.”

Harchandani said ISA members hope to plan monthly meetings open to anyone who would like to be a part of its atmosphere.

“Not many people know about us and the Indian community,” Harchandani said. “We are mostly made up of grad students. (As an undergrad), I’m actually representing the minority of a minority. We’re very open, we’re very welcoming and we really just want to show everyone our culture.”

Professor of Curriculum and Instruction Kathleen Fite said she enjoys coming to Diwali every year because of its wonderful display of culture and talent.

“I’ve come several times and it’s just spectacular,” Fite said. “The colors are beautiful, and it’s a festival of light; exactly what it seems like. They always have a wonderful array of food.”

Electronic media freshman Rasika Gasti acted as one of the hosts for the night. She said it is her passion to be a TV anchor someday in the future, and this opportunity to host at Diwali is a great practice.

Gasti is an international student from India and it is her first year in the United States. She was excited to find an Indian student community at Texas State and hopes to be more involved in ISA in the future.

“I’m beloved by the people over here too, Americans,” Gasti said. “But when you find somebody who is from your home country, you feel better.”

Gasti said she feels it is important for people to learn others’ cultures, and Texas State Diwali provides that opportunity.

“This is an amazing event because it tells us about the Indian culture,” Gasti said. “It’s also an educational event. I think knowing more cultures is good especially in America, which is an increasingly diverse society. Knowing about all of these is good.”

With an emphasis on lighting up the entire world and loving all people, Diwali serves to encourage people to find their own goodness and to share that with the rest of the world.

“All the lights in the world cannot compare to the inner light from within yourself,” Gasti said.

For more information on how to get involved with ISA and updates on future festivities and events, follow its Instagram account: @isa_txst.

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