On Friday, Oct. 29, Troy University students were given the opportunity to experience Indian culture through the Diwali festival, otherwise known as the “Festival of Lights,” that was hosted by the Indian Student Association (ISA).
Faculty and staff members, members of the ISA, and Indians from the local community, as well as international and American students, attended the festival.
Shivacharan Mandhala, a graduate computer science major from Hyderabad, Telangana, India, and the treasurer of ISA, said that the ISA started preparing for and promoting the event a month prior to the celebration.
According to Mandhala, they faced several difficulties along the way, including collecting funds, gathering volunteers and finding places to practice performances.
“Luckily, we received financial support from Indian families in Dothan and Montgomery,” said Mandhala.
Darlene Schmurr-Stewart, the dean of international student services, commended the hard work that went into putting the event together.
“It was very much a student-driven event,” said Schmurr-Stewart. “We tried our best to help them to come together and to help them feel less alienated.”
The celebration started with several speeches by Senior Vice Chancellor Earl Ingram, Darlene Schmurr-Stewart and the ISA adviser, Suman Kumar.
The highlight of the night was the lighting of Diya (‘candle’ in Indian), which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness.
According to diwalifestival.org, Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere (spring in the Southern Hemisphere). It represents the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair.
The event also showcased Indian culture through various performances of songs and traditional dances, followed by a brief presentation about Diwali as a whole.
The ISA prepared and served nine different kinds of vegetarian foods, typically eaten at Diwali.
Suman Kumar, an associate professor of computer science, said that Diwali gives Indian students an opportunity to celebrate their culture, come together as a family and showcase their culture to rest of the community.
“I want this event to serve its goal to increase awareness about Diwali and highlight its positive and peaceful message,” said Kumar. “I believe the celebration of Diwali in Troy strengthens cultural ties between India and the USA.”
Keerthana Thumma, a freshman computer science major from Hyderabad, India, said that she was happy to see all of the Indian and international students coming together to celebrate Diwali.
“Personally, I believe that the festival means being happy, celebrating and spending time with family and friends,” Thumma said.
Katie Cosper, a junior exercise science major from Oxford, said that she came to the event with her Indian friends from the Christian Students Center.
“I love it; it was lit,” said Cosper. “My favorite part was watching the dances.”
Schmurr-Stewart encourages students to embrace the opportunities made available to students, such as celebrations like Diwali, because they provide a more comprehensive worldview.
For more information about similar events, students can contact Darlene Schmurr-Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.