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Lighting up the IMU

BY ISAAC HAMLET | NOVEMBER 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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It’s the moment everyone waits for walking into a theater or cracking open a book cover: to see the hero rise from trial and tribulation and emerge victorious over evil. It’s a story told hundreds of times in thousands of different ways.

It is also millions of Hindus celebrate for five days every year with Diwali, also kno.

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is held on the final day of the Hindu calendar. The holiday honors the Hindu god Rama and his victory over demon king Ravana, a follower of Shiva who kidnapped Rama’s wife.

This year, Diwali fell on Oct. 23, but members of the University of Iowa’s Indian Student Alliance will celebrate and share the holiday on Saturday. The event will begin with a dinner held in the IMU Second-Floor Ballroom at 5:30 pm. The meal will be followed by a cultural showcase in the Main Lounge.

“We’ve been working on this over summer,” said Eesha Patel, the Diwali head. “This is one of the Indian Student Alliance’s biggest events; it draws anywhere from 750 to close to 1,000 people.”

The Indian Student Alliance has celebrated Diwali for roughly 10 years, the energized dance and colorful festivities of Diwali attracting more and more visitors every year. The 2014 festival will include the fusion dance team Iowa Andhi and the a cappella team Iowa Agni.

“[Performers] represent a wide variety of Indian cultures,” Patel said. “India has 29 different states. During auditions, we had a huge number of Indians, and out of those we tried to pick people from different sides and parts of India.”

The dinner will be catered by the Taj Mahal Restaurant in Cedar Rapids, offering a variety of dishes including mixed vegetable curry, channa masala, and raas malai. VIP ticket holders will also receive goody bags filled with Indian desserts.

“We’re doing everything,” said Harsh Patel, one of the student planners. “We’re going to have authentic Indian dinner for everyone. If you buy a ticket, you get a dinner and a great show for one price.”

But the event is designed offer an immersive experience beyond just dinner and a show. Organizers seek to educate guests who may be encountering the Diwali and Hindu tradition for the first time by showing a set of five recorded skits.

“For this skit, we used a Harry Potter theme,” said Sharmista Venkat, one of the skit’s lead actresses and a member of the Diwali Committee. “We’re replicating Rama and Ravana, using Harry and Voldemort.”

The skits are constructed to illustrate the battle of good and evil that remains cardinal in celebrating Diwali.

“Everyone’s heard of Harry Potter,” Patel said. “[The skits are] drawing a parallel between Harry Potter [and Diwali]. It helps show the crowd what Diwali is.”

Nearly 30 volunteers have worked since June on Diwali, facing a series of demanding deadlines. On Saturday night, those attending the Festival of Lights will be able to see, hear, and taste the fruit of their labor. 

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to bring people of our culture, the Hindu culture, and other cultures together to show them what Diwali is like,” Venkat said.


Diwali Celebration
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: IMU
Admittance: $10-$25


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