The Fountain of the Four Seasons, which rests in front of the Memorial Union, was lit with candles as ISU students celebrated a major Hindu holiday Tuesday night.
Members of the Hindu YUVA, a student organization on campus, gathered to celebrate Naraka Chaturdasi.
Naraka Chaturdasi is the second day of Diwali, a five-day long Hindu festival that is popular throughout India.
Ruchir Goswami, president of Hindu YUVA, said Diwali is celebrated by Hindus all over the world.However, it is a major holiday in India.
“If you want to picture how it’s celebrated in India, consider Fourth of July and Christmas on the same day,” Goswami said.
On the day of Naraka Chaturdasi, Goswami said there are sweets, good food and the exchanging of gifts.
Not only that, he said every home in India lights diyas.
Diyas are oil lamps, typically made from clay. However, for the event in front of the Memorial Union on campus, students used simple tea candles.
Lighting these candles has a special meaning for the festival as well.
“It represents the virtue over darkness,” Goswami said.
Goswami said it is a time of reflection for those celebrating the festival, and lighting the diyas has a deeper meaning than some may know about.
“It’s also a time when we try to remember that all of these virtues and darkness reside inside us,” he said. “So when we are lighting the diyas, it is a reminder that we have to bring light within.”
Goswami said the organization is hosting the event in order to create a feeling of celebration among the Indian members of the community. Not only that, but Hindu YUVA invited the public as well to learn more about the festival and the Hindu culture.
Goswami said Diwali is the oldest festival celebrated in the country, and there are many stories associated with it, many of which are diverse based on the region it originates from.
The most popular story, Goswami said, tells the tale of a regent prince whose wife was kidnapped by a demon king. The prince, who represents virtue, gathered an army of people to rescue his wife from the demon king, who represents darkness. According to the tale, there was an epic battle fought, and the side of evil was defeated.
“That is why, even to this day, we go around lighting diyas,” Goswami said. “Just to remind us this is the day that virtue won over darkness. Or knowledge triumphed over ignorance.”
As an international student from India, Goswami said he has very fond memories of celebrating the festival back home.
“As children, it was an excuse for us to stay out all night,” he said. “We used to say, ‘Oh no, the light went out. We have to go back and make sure it is lit.'”
There will be another event hosted for Diwali night, which takes place at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Schilletter and University Village Community Center. The public is welcome to attend.