Diwali and Diversity 

Dance, music, Indian food and a fashion show are all part of Diwali. Photo from Diwali 2016.   

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 10, 2017) – Sparkling lights, dazzling costumes and savory traditional Indian foods will highlight Diwali Night on Sunday, Nov. 12, at 4 p.m. in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Diwali is the festival of lights, the largest festival in South Asia, and is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains around the world.

“This is one of the most highly anticipated events at UAlbany,” said Sanket Misal, president of UAlbany’s Indian Student Organization (ISO) and event co-chair. “Diwali Night offers students an opportunity to experience unity in diversity on campus. We at ISO work to bring our rich Indian culture and tradition to the University campus every year, and the scale and magnitude of the event have grown.”

Vice President for University Development Fardin Sanai will be honored as the chief guest, said Gourav Bhowmik, chair of this year’s event. “His vision and enormous support toward Diwali has helped us take this event to the next level,” said Bhowmik, former president of ISO and a doctoral student in nanoscale engineering.

With more than 350 members, the ISO is one of the largest student groups on campus, said Misal, a computer science graduate student who grew up in Kolhapur city in India. Like Misal, the group is made up of mainly graduate students, but has undergraduates who volunteer as well.

Diwali is as important a religious holiday to Hindus as Christmas is to Christians. It is the biggest holiday in India, part of a five-day festival that is celebrated with music, lights, fireworks and by sharing traditional sweets.

“We prepare for the festival by cleaning and decorating our homes, and on the day of the Diwali celebrations we wear traditional new clothes and take part in family puja, or prayers to Lakshmi,” Misal said, referring to the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. “Rangoli artwork is done in the houses with the patterns and designs made from colored powders, ground rice powders and flowers are displayed, commonly depicting a lotus leaf.”

Historically, Diwali symbolizes the return of the Lord King Ram to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile by winning an epic battle of righteousness. Diwali 2017 was October 19, but the festival can be celebrated in October or November.

“But essentially, Diwali signifies the idea of the victory of ‘good over evil,’ or ‘the light of knowledge over the darkness of ignorance,’” Misal said.

Misal said some 500 students, faculty and members of the local Indian-American community are expected. ISO is teaming up with the Graduate Student Association and Albany State Indian Alliance for the event.

Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for the general public and $25 for VIP tickets. The proceeds are used to pay for the traditional Indian cuisine served that night. Cultural programs and other parts of the event are free.

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