Diwali is a religious celebration in Hindu, Sikhi and Jaini religions. It’s celebrated all over India and in other parts of the world, and was observed at USD through the Center for Diversity & Community (CDC) Sunday night.
India, the main country Diwali is celebrated in, is made up of 29 different states, and each is very different. Different states have different religions, and not all states celebrate Diwali.
Sophomore business major Kanwarjot Singh is originally from the northern part of India. He didn’t celebrate Diwali with his family, but had the opportunity to celebrate with his friends while attending military school.
“Every state has a different culture and is completely different,” Singh said. “So personally we don’t celebrate, but when I was a kid I used to celebrate it with my friends. It was mostly just Hindu people celebrating it, and it was just fireworks. Kids really like the fireworks.”
Diwali celebrations vary depending where people are from.
“It is basically the Hindu festival and it mostly about Lord Rom,” Singh said. “He returned to his hometown from Shiraga with his wife who was kidnapped from King Robin. He turned back over there, and the city welcomed him with lights and in a positive way. People say that we celebrate it by starting lights in their homes.”
Junior finance major Roma Trivedi is originally from Kenya, and follows a religion of Hindu heritage. Her family celebrates Diwali for five days by lighting candles around their home.
“We have five days of celebration, but it depends on what ethnic group you are from,” Trivedi said. “We celebrate each day with different types of prayers. On the fourth day everyone gathers in a playground and we light fireworks. And then on the fifth day, we celebrate the new year. We go to the temple and say god’s blessing, and then we go to people’s houses and exchange gifts. We all sit together and eat.”
Trivedi said Diwali is a celebration of victory, where evil energy loses and good energy is victorious.
“The significance of lights is to burn the evil power and negative energy out of our houses,” Trivedi said.
Celebrating Diwali away from family in western India has been challenging for graduate student Nikul Vyas.
“For the last 25 years, I have spent Diwali with my family, and this is the first year I will be celebrating on my own,” Vyas said. “This is the first time in my life that I am away from them, so sometimes I feel like crying from being away from them. We have a habit of sleeping through the noise (back home). The noise of firecrackers during the Diwali gives that feeling of Diwali is happening. But here, it is totally silent so it is tough to deal with it, but I am trying to cope.”
Fireworks are Vyas’s favorite way of celebrating Diwali, but he said he enjoys how other religions and people partake in Diwali.
“If you see the satellite image of the night of Diwali, the whole sky gets lit up and you can see the map of India,” Vyas said. “Although Diwali is limited to Hindus, even Muslims and Christians and all sorts of diverse people celebrate Diwali.”
Diwali on campus
The CDC and the Asian American Student Association (AASA) sponsored a Diwali celebration event on Sunday.
Xuyen Nguyen, a senior medical biology major and AASA’s president, said she wants others to learn more about Asian culture.
“I feel like our voices aren’t heard and that we’re not here,” Nguyen said. “We just want to spread other Asian cultures throughout the campus since we are such a small population here.”
The event was held in the Muenster University Center ballroom and saw an attendance of 175 people. Vyas said the event showed him diversity and acceptance at USD.
“This event is not limited to a specific religion. It signifies the involvement of different diverse people,” Vyas said. “(When I first moved here I was worried about) xenophobia or the fear of foreign culture, because I don’t know if people will be able to accept it or not, because I am different. But then I got adjusted to our environment, and people are caring. They hang out with international students, so I am quite happy.”
Although international students like Vyas are far away from home for Diwali, the event and the CDC offer support, he said.
“CDC is a second home for me,” Vyas said. “I have made lots friends and I’ve made families. I feel like I am among my own people, they understand me. They know me from deeply, and they always support me in whatever I do. They are always standing there for me.”