Diwali dinner caps first semester
Biology freshman Jessica Blake dressed up in an eye-catching outfit and joined over 100 UH students to ring in the new year – but it wasn’t the start of 2011 that they were celebrating.
Diwali, also known as the “festival of lights,” is a five-day Hindu festival that commemorates triumph over darkness and evil. It also marks the New Year on the Hindu lunar calendar.
In its inaugural year at UH, the Hindu Students Association held a Diwali dinner party at the Cambridge Oaks Apartments on Nov. 18 with around 120 attendees.
The dinner included Hindus and people of other religious backgrounds. For Blake, who is not Hindu, this was a whole new experience.
“I had never dressed in Indian clothes (before Diwali). We got compliments all night over how good we looked in them, and how happy they were to see different races there embracing their culture,” she said. “Never once during the dinner did we feel left out.”
As guests entered, they were required to leave their shoes outside.
“That’s in our religion, where if there is anything related to God inside, we keep our shoes outside,” HSA vice president Supriya Aggarwal said.
The dinner party opened with a presentation on Diwali. A traditional Indian dinner was served, followed by a diya lighting ceremony.
Every year, Hindus light special candles called diyas and place them all around the house.
“Lightness symbolizes happiness and joy, whereas darkness symbolizes ignorance,” Ami Patel, HSA co-publicist, said. “We light our houses with lamps and diyas.”
Many of the guests including Blake learned about the origins of Diwali and how it is celebrated.
“I learned that, on Diwali, you are supposed to be nice to your enemies, which I found interesting,” Blake said.
The HSA was initiated at the beginning of this semester.
“We are trying to spread awareness about Hinduism on campus,” Patel said. “Our meetings are open to everyone”.
Aggarwal added that another purpose of the organization is to welcome international students and make them feel at home.
Following the success of its first major event, HSA plans to hold more celebrations in the future, including a Holi celebration in March.
“I encourage everyone to learn about other cultures other than your own,” Blake said.