ODU Celebrates the Culture, Traditions and Inclusivity of Diwali
Old Dominion University transformed the Ted Constant Center’s Big Blue Room last Thursday night with strings of colored lights, paper lanterns and tea lights for a sparkling celebration of Diwali. Diwali, the most celebrated Hindu holiday in India, honors the power of light over darkness.
Hosted by the Indian Students’ Association (ISA) and the Office of Intercultural Relations, Diwali allowed attendees to celebrate Indian culture while also promoting inclusivity on campus. At ODU, Diwali allowed ISA to share and educate the community on their culture while connecting ethnically diverse groups on campus.
. A five day festival in India, ODU celebrated Diwali in a single night. ISA Event Coordinator Abhishek Biswas said that in Hinduism Diwali commemorates several significant things, but the major one is the homecoming of the king Rama after his defeat of the demon king Ravana.
“After 14 years, when he [Rama] came back to his kingdom, they lit up the whole city with lights. That is why it’s called the festival of lights and it kind of signifies the defeat of darkness,” Biswas said.
Although a single night event, ODU’s Diwali taps into the heart of the holiday.
“It’s a community event and all the people participate and showcase their talent. It’s a fun festival…I like the performances the most. I think that speaks. We share Indian culture through performances,” Biswas said.
Upon arriving to Diwali, guests were given a raffle ticket and bingo card for the chance to win prizes like headphones, a Galaxy tablet or an iPad Mini. There was also an open fashion show and competition to display Indian and ethic style.
Indian culture was celebrated with decorations, cultural dress, dance performances and a henna booth ran by Indian international graduate students. ODU’s dining services also provided an Indian inspired buffet with vegetable korma, steamed basmati rice, chana masala, nann and mango lassi.
Diwali is about more than sharing and educating the community on Indian culture at ODU. It also serves as a way to connect ethnically diverse groups and promote inclusivity on campus.
“For me, on behalf of our office, what I really enjoy is the engagement ISA brings to ODU. If you look all over the room you will see Chinese students, Iranian students, Saudi, Turkish and a lot of Americans… I think this is a good opportunity for ODU to show globalization and the diversity that we have,” Rachawan Wongtrirat of the office of intercultural relations said.
Diwali attracted a diverse group of students, either seeking to learn about a new culture or participate in their own culture away from home.
“I went to Diwali because I really enjoy Indian culture… I thought it was really fun and it’s something unique that’s being brought here to ODU,” junior Sonia Vincent said.
Graduate student Divya Guntaka a did henna for the festival celebrated Diwali away from her home in India for the first time. She said the event was good because of the community engagement.
“People come in, we all celebrate it together. That’s the main part. We wanted everybody to be invited. We respect the guest and we feed them and that’s our tradition,” she said.
Undergraduate student Navneet Kaur shared Guntaka’s same sentiment. “It’s definitely different [from home]… but a good thing about this festival is that you get to get together for sure and enjoy the festivity. You may not have a family here but you still end up enjoying it with your friends and community here… Also other people get to learn about the festival and see how exciting it is. It’s just fun,” Kaur said.
Diwali marked the start of an eventful International Education Week on campus. International Education Week is a week dedicated to sharing and educating the ODU community about the different cultures that make up the student body.
Events will be held every weekday until Nov. 19. Each event includes a chance to learn more about a variety of cultures, global issues and opportunities to study abroad.
For the detailed event calendar for International Education Week visit: http://www.odu.edu/announcements/student/2013/11/6/_2013_international_.iframe.html
Assistant Arts& Entertainment Editor