Members of the Hindu YUVA, or Youth for Unity Virtues and Action, and others gathered around the fountain to celebrate night two of Diwali.
Diwali is a Hindu celebration of the return of Lord Rama after he defeated a demon, said Ankit Singhal, president of Hindu YUVA and second year Ph.D. student in electrical engineering.
Singhal also said different sections of Hinduism, like Jainism and Sikhism, celebrate Diwali but for different historical reasons.
“This festival signifies good over evil. Everything related to the light is good. It symbolizes everything: hope, morality, strength, courage, etc.,” Singhal said.
The energy was high as the diyas were lit, and some people began exchanging memories of what Diwali was like back in India.
“If you just walk through a street on Diwali, all you can see is light. It’s the most brightened up night of the year,” said Bhakti Bansode, who lives in Ames with her husband while he attends Iowa State.
“Everywhere you see light. There’s not a single portion of the country where you’ll see dark on that day,” Singhal said. “We usually do some kind of puja, or prayer, as well to ask for the goddess Lakshmi to come into our homes.”
Lakshmi is the goddess of prosperity and wealth.
“It also depends on which part of India you live in to decide which deity you worship,” Singhal said.
During Dilwali, it is traditional to gather with family and friends and place diyas throughout the house, cook traditional foods and sweets and light firecrackers.
“As usual, food is very important. The whole family comes together and brings food. It’s like a potluck, or Thanksgiving here,” said Prathamesh Bilgunde, first year Ph.D. student studying aerospace engineering.
Bilgunde said this time of year is when he misses his parents and family.
“This is the time we miss home most. There are a lot of restrictions here, like we can’t light firecrackers and things,” Singhal said.
However, the Hindu YUVA still gathers and cooks together and celebrates many of the Hindu festivals throughout the year so campus can feel a bit more like home.
“Last year I felt very bad,” Singhal said. “On the weekend people have celebrations, but on the actual day of Diwali it was very sad. There was just darkness. So, this year we decided to celebrate on the day so it feels more like home.”
“Oh Diwali to me is very, very special actually,” Bansode said. “It’s the most awaited festival back home.”
Diwali comes at a time when exams in school were ending and students were about to go on break, like students do here near winter break.
India is so diverse, Singhal said, that different types of celebrations are seen across the country. This includes food, dress, deity and even language.
There are many different interpretations of why Diwali is celebrated, but it’s not fought over and doesn’t create any kind of conflict. It’s accepted, Singhal said.
“It [Diwali] is something that unites India as a country and a people,” he said.