Students celebrate Diwali at event hosted by Kent Indian Association

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Grace Kindl

Students gathered in the Kent Ballroom to celebrate Diwali.

Grace Kindl, Reporter

About 300 students gathered in the Kent Student Center Ballroom to celebrate and partake in Diwali festivities such as prayers to Lakshmi (Hindu goddess of wealth and good fortune), bingo and a best dressed contest.

Attendees were encouraged to dress in traditional attire; women wear saris and men wear kurtas. One participant of each sex was selected as “winners,” however one winner would not allow the spotlight to be hers alone.

Ryleigh Haggerty (left) and Monika Dubaria (right) after winning the best dressed contest. Haggerty invited Dubaria on stage to give her credit. (Grace Kindl)

The female winner of the best dressed contest, Ryleigh Haggerty, paid tribute to her friend and coworker, Monika Dubaria. After being named best dressed, Haggerty brought Dubaria onstage and gave her credit for her styling. Dubaria encouraged Haggerty to attend and helped dress her in a sari.

“I have really loved as much as I have tried to embrace the culture, it has embraced me too,” Haggerty said.

Diwali is, in large part, a community holiday. Many of the traditions involve large gatherings and group activities. Kent Indian Association’s Diwali event allowed students to participate in those traditions, as well as eat and dance, in a time that can be difficult for some students.

Graduate student Harsh Mishra and KIA adviser Dev Petwal emphasized the importance of being around family and friends during Diwali. For many students, this is not possible while they are in school. While some students had their parents with them, this event provided a campus family to those who were not able to be around their own.

“Not only do we celebrate at home, but we go to a neighbor’s house and see how they decorate,” KIA Recruitment Officer Milam Shah said.

The festival is shared among multiple religions, most notably Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. Kent Indian Association made a large effort to make all attendees feel welcome and included, regardless of their background and beliefs. Everyone was invited and encouraged to eat Indian food provided by a faculty member.

Decoration and the use of light is an important part of Diwali. “It’s about throwing away all the darkness,” said Swetha Kanakavalli, a business analytics graduate student.

While there are many traditions to help celebrate the Festival of Light, Shah noted “for children it’s all about firecrackers.”

Grace Kindl is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

Swetha Kanakavalli during the Diwali celebration. Kanakavalli is a grad student who came to celebrate with peers. (Grace Kindl)