Glittering lanterns and elaborate saris filled the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Saturday, Nov. 10, as the ISU Indian Student Association celebrated its premier annual event, Diwali Night.
Voted best international-themed event by the International Student Council last year, Diwali brought dancing, music and food to an enthusiastic crowd of ISU students and Ames community members.
Rishali Chaplot, graduate student in apparel, events and hospitality management, is a member of the Indian Student Association and helped plan this year’s celebration.
“This is our biggest event of the entire year,” Chaplot said. “If you ask someone, ‘When are you going to dress up the best?’ it will always be Diwali.”
Diwali is a “festival of lights,” recognized as a national holiday in India as well as other Asian countries. It is traditionally marked by the lighting of small clay lamps, which symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.
The theme for this year’s Diwali Night at Iowa State was “Padharo Mhare Desh,” which means “welcome to our nation.” A series of videos showcasing Indian culture brought laughter and cheers from the audience.
Also adding to the celebration were multiple dance performances, a fashion show and a meal featuring traditional Indian fare.
The event’s chief guest was Iowa States dean of students, Pamela Anthony. Anthony addressed the crowd and emphasized the value of multiculturalism on campus, saying it can function much like the lanterns of Diwali.
“Diversity can provide direction to an unknown place, but it can also provide illumination,” Anthony said. “I believe that an event like this can illuminate the richness of your culture.”
Anthony and Sriram Sundararajan, faculty adviser to the Indian Student Association, presented a check for $2,000 to Sankalp, a student organization that contributes to socioeconomic development projects in India. The money, raised by the Indian Student Association, will benefit things like women empowerment programs, children’s education and agriculture projects in India.
Rashmi Girmal, graduate student in electrical and computer engineering, thought the event was able to bring a piece of India to campus.
“It does feel like home," Girmal said. "We’ve just come this semester and we’ve been badly missing home.”
Naveen Kondru, graduate assistant in biomedical sciences, praised Diwali’s ability to bring people together.
“You’ll find all kinds of cultures and people participating in India, in this moment, at this Diwali night,” Kondru said. “That is the fantastic thing about Diwali.”