ISA marks traditional Hindu festival of lights

By Agnes Musee

In celebration of Diwali, the Indian Student Association collaborated with the Asian & Pacific Islander Student Center to put on a Diwali Festival at the Cultural Centers.

The cultural sharing included henna tattoos, a Starbucks giveaway and festive Diwali delicacies such as a cashew sweet dish most commonly known as Kaju Katli, milk cake and laddu, which is a ball-shaped sweet made out of flour. All the dishes are based on honey or Chashni (sugar syrup), which is known to be the main dish binder in the former days of the celebration.

Celebrationof lights

Diwali or Deepawali, also known as the festival of lights, is one of the biggest celebrations in Hindu culture. By definition, Diwali means “a row of lights;” it is celebrated not just in India, but worldwide. The celebration takes up four days, each with its own traditions.

President of the Indian Student Association Elisha Nandwani, a second-year finance and CIS student, said this is one of the biggest holidays in Indian culture. Its most celebrated tradition is the celebration of life.

APISC has celebrated Diwali on campus before, however, the festival had never been a big enough event for members and student participants. This year, the number of ISA members has increased and allowed the APISC and ISA to work together.

“[ISA] wanted to come together and promote our cultural awareness on campus to let people know about this big holiday,” said Nandwani. “It just gives people a chance to taste culture, try something new and learn something new.”

Henna tattoos

Tattoos made from henna or Mehndi are a form of cultural expression. The brownish paste is made from plant-based ingredients, specifically turmeric, and is commonly used during special occasions as a form of decoration. These events are often ceremonial festivities but are primarily practiced during weddings and bridal showers.

Henna tattoos can come in intricate patterns and floral designs. Henna can be applied directly to the skin using a paintbrush or stick. At the ISA event, an appointed member used a plastic cone to apply designs on students.

Cultural diversity

Shirin Bansal, a second-year marketing management student and ISA member, spoke about her excitement for the cultural awareness the Diwali festival will bring to Cal Poly Pomona.

“I think Cal Poly has a very diverse campus, and I think it’s awesome if we educate everyone on not just certain cultures, but all cultures,” said Bansal.

Mythologyof Diwali

The overall significance of the festival is to celebrate the prevalence of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil. The illumination of lights signifies gratitude to the heavens for health, prosperity, peace and wealth.

There are various alleged mythical legends that explain the origin of Diwali. Vasu Raina, a third-year mechanical engineering major and ISA member, explained his version.

“In the Hindu mythological story of the Ramayana, the protagonist was exiled into the forest for 13 years,” said Raina. “On his arrival back in town, the townspeople were overjoyed, so they lit lights and it’s always signified as a win of good over evil where the light dispels the darkness.”

Symbolism of lights

The illuminating lights in homes symbolize the presence of hope and encourage participants to practice good deeds as a way to come closer to divinity. For Indian participants, the common ritual is to light up lights in homes, ignite firecrackers and incense sticks and pass out sweet treats.

“We also give out sweets to friends and family members, so in that spirit, today [ISA] set up a booth and got a selection of sweets right here, so you can try some Indian sweets,” said Raina.

There are variations on how the festival is celebrated within other south Asian cultures, however, they are all celebrated with the same spiritual intentions. It is a celebration of forgiveness, letting go, promoting unity, manifesting prosperity and reflecting on the inner-self.

This year’s Diwali fell on Sunday, Oct. 30 and was celebrated worldwide.

Hindu festival

Agnes Musee / The Poly Post

Hindu festival

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