UIW celebrates Diwali – the Festival of Lights

By Joshua Cantu


   Diwali, a five-day Indian celebration known as “The Festival of Lights,” was celebrated Nov. 5 at the University of the Incarnate Word with authentic cuisine, traditional dances, and hymns.

Depending on the position of the moon, Diwali falls somewhere between mid-October and early November. This year Diwali – a celebration of the struggle and triumph between good and evil — began Nov. 3. The struggle between good and evil is represented symbolically by lighting lamps filled with oil and keeping the lamps going all night long.

The food prepared for the festival, held in Dr. Burton E. Grossman International Conference Center, featured vegetarian dishes that included curries and an array of vegetables. On the pastry side, there was Gullab Jambu, a fried dough that was moderately sweet.

Despite some technical difficulties, the dances performed were accented with traditional clothing. The storytelling of the dances performed were very emotive and showcased the side of Indian culture where they use mediums such as dance and music to tell ancient stories of good and evil.

The central figure of Diwali is the goddess Lakshmi; she represents wealth and abundance. Lakshmi is an important figure to Diwali as she is sought after the harvest as a form of gratitude for the agricultural yields.

Devotional hymns were sung as to give thanks for the blessings of that past year. One of the hymns — “Laxmiji Ki Aarti” — was devoted to Lakshmi. The loose English translation of the hymn speaks about how the goddess brings good luck, bestows light on Earth and protects worldly treasures.

The décor at ICC Conference Hall included many Christmas-like lights hanging from the ceiling. At the tables, lamps were placed in the center. On the stage where the dances took place, there was a group of lit candles. For one of the dance numbers, the candles were used to tell the story of how light triumphed over darkness.

As the night waned and came to a close, the group that was about to perform the last dance invited the attendees to participate in the traditional stick dance.

Angela Hernandez, a sophomore communication arts major concentrating in journalism, said she learned a lot going to the festival.

“I really liked how there was authentic cuisine and dances and it gave an exposition of the Indian culture,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes it’s hard for other cultures seeing how a dish can go without meat and still be delicious and filling. The dances were fabulous, and the storytelling behind them display very valuable life lessons.”

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