In the Aloha Center Ballroom during the late Saturday hours of Oct. 26, the Great India Chapter hosted a celebration of Diwali. Featuring stirring Bollywood music, traditional dress and homemade cuisine, the members of the Great India Chapter said it was meaningful to represent their culture as they attend school.
Diwali, according to Vidya Irene Tamang, a junior from New Delhi, India majoring in TESOL education, “is a festival of good conquering evil, or of light conquering darkness. There are many different versions of the story.
“The most popular story surrounding Diwali is Ram, a god in Hinduism battling Ravana, the demon king. Ravana kidnapped Ram’s wife to show how powerful he was. Ram and his soldiers then rescue his wife from the demon king, and he is honored with a festival of lights.”
Vaddi Vikram Raj, a sophomore from the town of Kakinada in Southern India majoring in accounting, expressed his happiness that Diwali was celebrated on the BYUH campus.
“Many of us have come from all over the India subcontinent. From places like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Malaysia too. Even though we are thousands of kilometers from home, we can still have our culture always be with us.
“Diwali might be a traditional Hindu festival, but its message about light conquering darkness and good conquering evil is so universal. It relates to the gospel so directly, and it allows us to feel at home somewhere, which is very westernized.”
The spicy, rich aroma of the night’s main course, chole, rice and puri, filled the air of the ballroom as Vidya Irene lifted the plastic wrap from the mammoth bowl sitting on the table. Chole, a spiced dish made from chickpeas, was placed on guest’s plates along with substantial helpings of jasmine rice and an unleavened deep-fried bread called puri.
According to Vidya Irene, much of western culture associates Indian food with meat and curry. “Traditionally, Indian culture is mostly vegetarian. And tonight, I’m sure we have a few vegetarians or vegans coming, so it was important we have food everyone could eat, but still tasted good.”
Samson Prashanth Sondi, a freshman from the city of Visakhapatnam in Southern India majoring in computer science, said having a Diwali celebration on campus meant a lot to him. “As a person from India, Diwali is all about friendship and coming together as brothers and sisters from India.
“Back in India, Diwali also meant fireworks,” he exclaimed. “It became a literal festival of lights as the night sky got lit up. We may only have this ballroom to celebrate Diwali, but it will continue to be celebrated in our hearts.”
Rajkumar Tamang, a sophomore from Nepal majoring in social work, thanked everyone for attending and elaborated a bit more about Diwali. Dressed in traditional Nepali robes, he asked the people gathered to think of both something good and something bad that had happened to them recently. “Think of something light and something which is bothering you. I’ll give you 10 seconds,” he said with a laugh.
After the 10 seconds were up, Rajkumar continued. “We all experience light and dark in our lives. We ask you to look at the good and bad and think about how something dark can help you see the light. Something awful helps you see something great. And in the gospel, we say if there’s nothing good or bad, we could never know the opposites.
“We hope whatever is happening in your life, you can look on the brighter side and follow the light.”
After a round of applause from the guests, Rajkumar invited attendees to go to tables for henna, saying they could make an exception and let the males get henna as well. There was also a photo booth available for partiers to take pictures. The enchanting sound of Bollywood music then filled the ballroom as guests mingled.
Dujon Chase, a sophomore from Australia majoring in music education, said the celebration was a very welcoming environment.
“I came in, not knowing anything about Diwali, and not knowing if I would even like the food, but [I had] a good time.
Up to this point, all I really knew about Indian culture was the Simpson’s character Apu, which really isn’t a good representation. Attending Diwali and getting a taste of the food is changing my perception of the culture of India.”