Students celebrate Diwali, Hindu Festival of Lights

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Photo Credit: Thalia Juarez | Daily Texan Staff

Students from various cultures and backgrounds participated in activities in celebration of Diwali, one of the largest Hindu festivals, at the Main Mall Thursday night.

Hindu Students Association hosted the annual event to raise awareness of the celebration and expose students to Hindu culture, according to Sheila Prabhu, Diwali co-chair and microbiology and pre-pharmacy junior.

“I think it’s great that a lot of people are open-minded and really want to learn about other cultures,” Prabhu said. “As Hindus, it’s really great celebrating together, but it’s really nice to spread awareness and create a chain reaction of people knowing about Hinduism.”

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The celebration, also known as “the festival of lights,” commemorates the return of the Hindu god Lord Rama after his 14 years of exile. Displays of light in the form of lamps, candles and fireworks intend to symbolize light’s victory over the darkness of the world.

Prabhu said sparklers are used throughout the ceremony and fireworks culminate the event to represent the idea of light conquering darkness. She said Diwali is the only event at UT that includes a firework display at the Tower other than the commencement ceremony.

Mukundan Kuthalam, electrical and computer engineering sophomore and member of the association, said he hopes a diverse group of people gain cultural knowledge from participating in the celebration.

“I think learning about new cultures and other perspectives can really help you grow as a person,” Kuthalam said. “I think everybody should have a chance to experience that.”

After opening with Havan, a prayer ritual serving to bless the celebration, students performed classical music and traditional dance routines.

Interactive booths including a henna station, ring toss game, photo booth and an educational section also provided students with the opportunity to learn about the tradition while enjoying the diverse aspects of the celebration.

Prabhu said the association started planning for the event in May and accumulated a $6,000 budget in funds from UT organizations, various companies and local businesses.

Psychology sophomore Charity Thuku said she has never celebrated Diwali before, but was interested in attending the event to learn about a culture unfamiliar to her.

“I had heard of [Diwali], but I didn’t know what it was or what it was for,” Thuku said. “It’s important to get insight on their culture by just seeing how they celebrate and what they do to celebrate.”