Diwali is a celebration of the Hindu festival of lights that lasts for five days. The holiday is a celebration of new beginnings that recognizes the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and light over darkness. This is an important holiday for people of the Hindu and Buddhist faiths and since there are so many different faiths in Lincoln this was an important event for many students.
Like Thanksgiving, that date on which Diwali occurs every year is different. It occurs in the Hindu month of Kartik – which typically overlaps the months of October and November – and the holiday itself happens on the day of the new moon, the darkest day of the lunar month.
On Friday, Nov. 1, the Nebraska University Malaysian Student Association hosted a Diwali Night 2019 event at the University Suites Multipurpose Room at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. The event was full of food, lights and fun Diwali activities.
There were traditional Diwali foods to enjoy including the main dish, paneer makhani, a vegetarian curry dish made with paneer – a firm, mild cheese – in place of meat. Sides included samosas for guests to grab. For dessert there was the crowd-favorite dessert gulab jamun. The little balls are almost like donut holes but are made from milk solids, are deep fried and then soaked in a sweet, sugary syrup typically made with rose water.
UNL sophomore chemical engineering major Aingaran Bala Raman said he loves the gulab jamun.
“It has been my favorite dessert since I was a little kid,” he said. “It has always been my most loved Diwali treat, and I can’t wait to have it every year.”
Since Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, light was heavily represented at the event. Little battery-operated candles were placed on every table and available surface to help symbolize the non-existence of darkness and evil forces, as light is used to signify purity and goodness, according to the Deccan Chronicle. Strands of lights also decorated the walls and helped add an aesthetic flair.
One of the other main attractions was the activities tables that were tucked away in the corner of the room. Some were more traditional activities, like a station where attendees could get Henna body art on their hands. Others were more modern like a game where guests could guess different Diwali superstitions. Some of these involved meat not being consumed on certain days during Diwali and not sweeping after sunset for fear of it bringing rotten luck.
UNL junior civil engineering major Yajyoo Shrestha said the event was a good way to help him celebrate the Diwali festivities with friends without feeling too homesick. “It’s hard to be away from my family in Nepal around this time of year because I miss celebrating Diwali with them,” he said. “It’s nice that this event is held so I can feel more at home while still being at school.”
Bala Raman expressed the same sentiments about being an international student. “It’s hard coming to a country where your religion isn’t the main one practiced, so all the big holidays like Diwali kind of get pushed to the side,” he said.
There was even a traditional Rangoli at the event in the shape of a bird. Rangoli is a form of art traditionally made with colored sand and is thought to bring good luck.
Shrestha commented on the Rangoli at the event and said he was happy that they had one. “I wasn’t expecting there to be one here at all, let alone one so colorful and neatly done,” he said. “It just goes to show the amount of thought and preparation that goes into events like this.”