The MU South Asian Students Association and the MU Multicultural Center brought light to campus on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2013. They were celebrating Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, which is an important religious holiday observed by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains.
Guests ducked through the doorway of the Benton Bingham Ballroom of Memorial Union North and passed under a curtained passageway to get to the event.
A few minutes prior to the event, there were already many tables filling up as more guests arrived. The tables were covered in white tablecloths, and red flower petals served as the centerpieces of the round tables. String lights lined the perimeter of the room, and the atmosphere was cheerful and welcoming. Members of the South Asian Students Association were dressed in traditional outfits for the festival.
After a slight delay, due to a laptop to projector malfunction, guests were treated to a presentation explaining the importance of the Festival of Lights.
“For Hindus, it’s the day when Lord Rama returned from a 14-year exile,” said Ami Bhatt, the event coordinator and sophomore at the University of Missouri.
“It falls on the Hindu calendar on the 13th lunar day and that is sometimes in the middle of November. It’s also the New Year on the Hindu calendar.”
As the room was dimmed for the presentation, the light surrounding the room became more apparent.
“Light is important so gods and goddesses are able to be guided to bless the people celebrating this holiday,” Bhatt said.
After the presentation, guests were invited to participate in henna, a washable tattoo art, and share in a meal of mashed vegetables, spices and gravy mixed with fried chicken served on a bed of white rice.
Around 50 to 60 people enjoyed large helpings of festival food.
“Everyone was really interested in what it’s about and different things they could do,” Bhatt said. “Maybe next year we will add lantern making and Rangoli [colored powdered used to decorate intricate designs].”