By Brian Harris, Staff Writer
There are a lot of traditions across the campus here at UMass Dartmouth. Some are school led events, some more influenced by the active student body.
But one event that more often than not combines both of these into one incredible experience is the Diwali Festival.
First off, I’m sure many of you are asking, ‘what is Diwali?’ Well, to be completely honest, I wasn’t entirely sure either until recently. As Professor Satya Parayitam (the faculty advisor to Diwali Festival organizers the Indian Student Association, or ISA) clarified, “Diwali, celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists, symbolizes the victory of ‘good over evil,’ and knowledge over ignorance, triumph of ‘truth’ over ‘untruth.’”
Parayitam has been overseeing the Diwali festival for over nine years here at UMass Dartmouth, and his passion for the subject seemingly hasn’t waned one bit. In fact, according to the professor, the Diwali festival has been a tradition here for over 25 years, and for each one of those years, it’s been a primarily student run affair.
“Only Indian Student Association run this event,” Parayitam mentioned, “this is [a] student run organization and as a faculty adviser to the ISA, I coordinate the [festival].”And as such, I took it upon myself to not only head to the Festival itself, but to seek out a student representative of the ISA to shed even more light on the fantastic event.
Walking in, the first thing you’d notice is simply how packed the campus center had become for the event. It’s certainly the first time I can recall seeing it fill up to the point that walking through the crowd proved to be challenging. Professor Parayitam estimated that around 600 attendees made their way to the 2017 Diwali event.
There were two portions to the event, the “Cultural Program,” and the dinner after. While I couldn’t make it to the cultural program, I luckily have Indian Students Association president Ram Ravi to fill in some of the blanks.
“The cultural program had the audience on the edge of their seats,” says Ravi in our interview. “Each act was meticulously planned, and I was glad to see the hard work of the students performing paying off. Some of whom have been practicing for two months till late midnight.”
As President of the ISA, Ravi played a critical role in planning the event. “I was involved throughout each and every stage of the event. As the president of the Indian Student Association, it was an honor and delight to see the way the event progressed from the conceptualization days to the main Diwali program.”
The dedication and hard work of the ISA for putting on such a massive event of course didn’t go unmentioned, “I only have great stories to share, considering the fact that most of us had exams and assignments, yet the dedication and support everyone showed in spite of that to make this day a success is a testimony to the lasting legacy [of] Diwali UMass Dartmouth.”
There seems to be something important about an event like Diwali. As stated above, its themes are in many ways universal; as a day shared by numerous faiths, there was a feeling of unity at the festival that felt palpable to me.
It seems that the idea isn’t lost on Ravi: “Diwali at UMass Dartmouth, portrays the Indian communities desire to portray and showcase Indian culture at its best. To rejoice, celebrate and give back to a university which embraces such diversity is important and corroborates with its very own ethos. The truly global appeal of Diwali’s virtues such as love, culture, bright lights and gifts makes it an event that will stand the test of time here at UMass D.” As a newcomer to the Diwali festival, I encourage anyone who hasn’t gone to take a moment next year and visit. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait.