ISSA to host its first Diwali festival Saturday

ISSA’s first Diwali carnival will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday at Fountain Mall. Photo courtesy of Milita Vazirani.

By Avery Ballmann | Staff Writer

Diwali, also known as the Hindu Festival of Lights, celebrates the triumph of good over evil. It is a holiday observed throughout the week, with each day representing a different Hindu god and task.

The festival begins with preparing the home and decorating with clay lamps. Families then gather for Lakshmi Puja, celebrate the new year and end with sisters inviting their brothers over to share a meal.

This year, Diwali was celebrated from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26, but because of homecoming, the Indian Subcontinent Student Association (ISSA) wanted to host Diwali on its own day so that students didn’t have to choose between the events. ISSA’s first Diwali carnival will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday at Fountain Mall.

San Ramon, Calif., senior and ISSA social chair Milita Vazirani said ISSA has been sheltered in sharing its culture since Gateway is its only large event. She said sharing her culture with other students is one of the reasons she wanted to host Diwali on campus, and since there usually are no events in Waco, she and her friends would have to commute to Dallas and Austin for festivals.

“A lot of people celebrate it for many various reasons,” Vazirani said. “But the main reason — it’s to celebrate good over evil, and it’s a representation of Hindu gods. Also, it’s a festival of lights, and I thought it’d be really fun to have a special experience with all Baylor, not just keep it to ourselves.”

The celebration will include henna, games, a photo wall, canvas painting and traditional foods like samosas and frooti — a juice popular in India. It will also feature rangoli, which is an art form in the Indian subcontinent that creates pictures with colorful dust.

Frisco sophomore and ISSA social chair Siri Kothapalli said she celebrates Diwali at home with her family. Although she said her family is not very religious, she said they still celebrate because Diwali is so integrated into their culture.

“I always love when October, September come around because you get to light fireworks, lamps and just have really great family time and be together,” Kothapalli said. “It’s always a really wonderful time of the year.”

Kothapalli said she wanted there to be more similar celebrations at Baylor.

“I remember thinking, ‘I wish there was something for us to do at Baylor,’” Kothapalli said. “Especially at a very predominantly white school, there’s not a lot of opportunities for me to connect with South Asians. So we just thought that it’d be nice for everyone to just get together and celebrate this holiday.”

The festival is free and open to all Baylor students, although they will have to pay for the food catered from Saffron as well as the henna art. Vazirani said she hopes Diwali will be an ongoing holiday celebrated at Baylor.

“Having this aspect of our culture being shown is really important,” Vazirani said. “We’ve never really done it before. I think especially if other people get to see what Diwali is about and experience seeing all the colors and the mandala paintings, everything will be fun.”