Silence permeated the audience as UVM President Suresh Garimella and his wife, Lakshmi, knelt to light the ceremonial lamp that signals the beginning of the festival.
The Indian Students Association held their annual Diwali celebration Oct. 27 in Grand Maple Ballroom. Diwali is the Hindu festival of lights, which is observed every autumn.
This is ISA’s 13th celebration of Diwali at UVM. This year’s was particularly special because the celebration fell on the exact day of Diwali.
ISA Vice President Aayudh Das, a graduate student, said the club has been planning the festival for a year.
Garimella gave the opening remarks for the festival.
“I wish the lights were on in the room. It’s just an amazing sight,” Garimella said. “It’s the first time I feel like I’ve seen this much color at UVM.”
Garimella continued by reading a Sanskrit shloka, a type of verse that appears frequently in Sanskrit poetry.
“I salute this light which destroys darkness. And with this light, anything can be accomplished,” Garimella said, reciting the poem.
The celebration continued with performances from ISA’s team of dancers, drummers from UVM’s Taiko club and Jazbaa, UVM’s Bollywood dance company.
A few performers gave a tribute to A.R. Rahman, an Indian musician famous for his work on the 2008 film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Senior Choeden Lama, one of the leaders of Jazbaa, appeared in most of the night’s performances.
“A lot of the members in our group come from backgrounds and cultures that celebrate Diwali, and for them, it’s a very special event,” Lama said. “I think it’s special because it feels like you’re home celebrating this.”
Das echoed the importance of attending events like Diwali.
“You are not complete unless you experience other cultures,” Das said. “Students at UVM always come with love.”
The featured guest at this year’s Diwali was Indian folk singer Prahalad Singh Tipanya. Durning Das’ introduction of Tipanya, he said Tipanya’s music focuses on reinterpreting the words of the 15th century poet Kabir.
After the performance, attendees filed out into the lobby to enjoy traditional Indian cuisine. Das said ISA worked with UVM Dining to craft more authentic Indian food.
Garimella sent well wishes to those at the event.
“Let this festival of light and happiness into all of our lives and remind us of the many colors and textures of our community,” Garimella said.