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UI student group hosts Diwali festival

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | NOVEMBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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Every year, over the course of five days in October or November, the streets of India light up with firecrackers and lanterns to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

However, celebrating Diwali at the University of Iowa is slightly different.

Since this past summer, the UI Indian Student Alliance has prepared to host Diwali, the traditional Indian Festival of Lights.

UI senior Abhishek Dsouza, the president of the Indian Student Alliance, said Diwali is referred to as the Festival of Lights because to signify that when there’s light, there’s no darkness.

“The whole point is good versus evil,” Dsouza said. “At the end, good wins. It has some religious stories about how there’s a demon, and how they kill the demon.”

Traditionally, Diwali follows the religious Hindu calendar and signifies a new year. This year in India, Diwali was celebrated Oct. 23. The UI Indian Student Alliance celebrated the festival in Nov. because of scheduling conflicts.

The Indian Student Alliance made an effort to incorporate people from all around Iowa in its version of the festival.

“We have performances from Des Moines, Ames, Cedar Rapids, and all around,” said UI senior Eesha Patel, a member of the Diwali organization.

Patel said in past years, the UI Diwali celebration has received huge turnouts of more than 700 people. According to the International Student and Scholar Statistics, 343 students at the UI are from India.

This year, however, the celebration of Diwali has spread to other areas, and Dsouza said this is the first time there are other Diwali competitions in the area. He said he expected the turnout to be closer to 650 as a result.

Patel said while the numbers weren’t official, she guessed there was a significantly lower turnout because of the additional Diwali events hosted throughout the weekend.

Because of this, officials did everything they could to spread the word about the event.

“[It was] the first time we focused a lot on students,” Dsouza said. “We went all out.”

The Indian Student Alliance handed out more than 1,000 fliers and promoted as much as possible on social-media sites such as Facebook.

UI sophomore Sharmista Venkat, a committee member, primarily focused on marketing for the event.

“The marketing for this event was very well-done,” Venkat said. “People [have asked] us about this event, and [we hope for them to be] more culturally awakened.”

UI sophomore Ryan Wirth, who attended the event, said he decided to go because he attended events put on by the Indian Student Alliance in the past and really enjoyed them.

Wirth said he believes that the UI hosting cultural events such as Diwali is a “good thing that we do that.”

UI sophomore Yashila Permeswaran, who also attended the event, said, “I really like the feel of all this stuff; it’s fun to get a feel of everything. The food is really, really good.”

In addition to the food, Permeswaran also said she was expecting cool performances and good music. 

Dsouza said this event was a great way to know about different types of cultures that were showcased through traditional Indian food, dances, and songs.

“India has different types of cultures, not just one,” Dsouza said. “India is very diverse. In one platform, you get at least five to nine different cultures.”


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