Fireworks thundered over the Missouri S&T campus as Diwali, the festival of lights, was celebrated Saturday, October 21 across the campus. The traditionally multi-day celebration was orchestrated by the India Association of Missouri S&T as an evening full of food, culture and celebration with their fellow students and faculty members, as well as those outside the campus.

Fireworks thundered over the Missouri S&T campus as Diwali, the festival of lights, was celebrated Saturday, October 21 across the campus. The traditionally multi-day celebration was orchestrated by the India Association of Missouri S&T as an evening full of food, culture and celebration with their fellow students and faculty members, as well as those outside the campus.

The festival is a yearly autumn tradition celebrated in multiple religions and regions; and is one of the most popular festivals celebrated by those of Hindu belief. India is the largest hub of celebration of this event, taking a five-day long period to fully engage in the festivities that follow. The traditional activities of Diwali include lamp lighting and oil baths, and are usually celebrated with family. President of the India Association, Ramya Saroja Kandula said “Diwali always has been a personal favorite of mine. Festivals are meant to be celebrated with families and loved ones. I left behind a family at home, but I am grateful that I have found another one here [at S&T].”

The student organization that orchestrated the event, the India Association, planned three main areas of the celebration for those in Rolla wishing to partake. First was the Cultural Show held in Leach Theater, which began with organization leaders and advisors giving the audience knowledge of the traditional festival. The cultural show  featured a play that followed the life of a student on his journey to Missouri S&T from India, beginning from his birth into a family with high expectations, all the way towards his early college days in India. Singing and traditional dances were incorporated into the original play, and the audience showed their enthusiasm by participating in the performance through singing and laughing with those on stage.

The Diwali celebration itself signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. In a prayer led by a faculty advisor of the India Association, a translation was given. “Asato ma sat gamaya; Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya; Mṛtyor ma amṛtam gamaya; Om shanti shanti shantihi.” The english translation was described as follows; “Oh lord, from the bondage of the phenomenal world, lead me towards the reality of the eternal self. From the darkness of ignorance lead me towards the light of spiritual knowledge. From the fear of death due to the bondage of the mortal world, lead me towards immortality gained by the knowledge of the immortal self beyond death. Om peace, peace, peace.”

Following the cultural show, a fireworks display was held over the Havener lawn, as no festival of lights is complete without the showiest lights of them all. Traditionally clay oil lamps are lit as well, with sparklers and fountains for children. A crowd gathered as the sun set over campus, light just barely visible with an overcast sky as showers of sparks and glittering colors burst in the air.

With bated breath one of the most anticipated events of the night was just around the corner; dinner. A crowd, much larger than the second level holding space for the Havener Center, made multiple loops of a line to wait their turn for the delicious Diwali celebration meal prepared by the students.  Tofu curry, jalebi, gulab jamun and onion bhaji were among the delicious delicacies served to the community. Families, friends, neighbors and students alike piled their plates with traditional Indian cuisine and shared in laughs and smiles as the evening drew to a close.

With the closeness of the Rolla community and that of the MS&T campus it comes as no surprise that the night was as eventful, knowledgeable and accepted as it was. Being away from home is difficult in times of celebration, but seeing the smiles on the faces of those involved made it feel that the difficulty was lessened just a bit by the Diwali festival of lights chasing away the darkness.