Iowa State’s Indian Students Association celebrates 2014 Diwali Night

Dancers, singers and actors came together to tell the story of “The Great Indian Wedding” during Diwali Night on Nov. 1 at the Memorial Union. Diwali, or the “Festival of Lights” is a traditional Indian celebration to promote happiness, peace and the triumph of light over darkness. The event is hosted annually by the Indian Students Association.

Carolina Colon

Diwali Night has been celebrated for 12 years at Iowa State by Indian Students’ Association. The annual event, which took place Nov. 1, set an attendance record as 600 people packed the Great Hall of the Memorial Union.

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in India and signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair. It consists of giving presents, visiting friends and family and going to temples.

The Indian Students Association created this event to make Indian students feel like they are at home and to have a great time sharing with friends.

Vivek Lawana, graduate student in biomedical sciences, is the president of the association. Lawana said how important this festival is to the ISU community.

“[Diwali Night is] not only an Indian festival but also a multicultural event where everyone can join the Indian culture and learn and also try our ethnic food,” Lawana said.

The sold-out event was not only attended by all 400 students who belong to the Indian Students Association, but also by other international and multicultural students, the Ames community and families.

Monalisa Pati, graduate student in business administration, explained how they organized the event.

“We thought of a theme, the Big Indian Wedding,” Pati said. “We called all the dance crews, and each dance created a scene for our theme.”

Pati said they created something similar to a Bollywood-themed movie.

Traditional music and dances involving the theme of the night let the Great Hall experience a little bit of Indian flavor. Because of the Big Wedding in India theme, the entrance was decorated like a typical entrance for an Indian wedding, and each entertaining performance had a meaning.

The ISU Raas dance group introduced the woman’s family, the Bollywood Dance Club introduced the man’s part and Manasi Chitre Ambulkar performed the woman’s introduction to the plot.

Dhinchak Mastikhors danced through the falling-in-love stage of the couple, the ISU Bhangra dance team introduced the villain of the story and at the end the band Baaja Baaraat and South Indian Dance celebrated the wedding festivities. Punk Punditz also performed as a live band.

Last year, the event was ranked in the top three in the Veishea Awards and among the top three events at Iowa State. Diwali Night also won the best event award given by the International Student Council.

Lawana talked about two different activities that were added to the event this year.

“For the first time we did two important things: We raised money for the Women Empowerment and Girl Safety [Organization], we also donated money to the Smile Foundation,” Lawana said. “They have a program called Swabhiman, which means self-respect. [It] helps women and girls in India.”

The second thing they added to this year’s Diwali Night was to recognize one graduate and one undergraduate students’ academics and leadership achievements.

Presha Kardile, senior in management, received the undergraduate award, and Ashok Rajan, graduate in computer and electrical engineering, received the graduate award.

The association’s executive committee and the dance groups prepared for this event for more than two months. Lawana credits a lot of success to the promotion done through the association’s Facebook page.

After the event, the celebration continued in the Collegiate Methodist Church on Lincoln Way which served Indian cuisine. The food was purchased from Taj Mahal in Cedar Rapids.

Lawana said he was really happy to see so many faces smiling, and he enjoyed how Indians were having fun while being so far away from home.

“The Indian Students Association is grateful to the university to allow us to show this event,” Lawana said. “We hope to do even better in the coming events.”