Jamie Kaplan

President Suresh Garimella and his wife lighting the celebratory lamps for Diwali in the Grand Maple Ballroom of the Davis Center Nov 14.

Community celebrates international campus presence at Diwali

November 16, 2021

For the first time since 2019, the Davis Center Grand Maple Ballroom came to life with colors and lights to celebrate Diwali. 

The Indian Student Association held their 15th annual Diwali celebration in the Davis Center’s Grand Maple Ballroom Nov. 14. With the pandemic in full swing last year, the celebration was moved to Zoom, but returned to in person this year, according to a November 2019 Cynic article.

Diwali is a five-day festival of lights and one of India’s biggest and most important holidays as on the darkest night of the lunar year it represents that light can overcome darkness, according to a Nov. 4 NBC Chicago article. 

During Diwali, those who celebrate the holiday eat sweet treats, decorate their homes in lights and wear bright clothing to symbolize joy. 

UVM President Suresh Garimella was the event’s chief guest. He said he felt pleased with the celebration’s return to campus. 

“The students do such a good job year after year,” Garimella said. “Last year was really, really hard. To have 300 people and put it all together and all the energy on the stage, I just think it’s the most uplifting thing. I’m glad we can all be here together.”

The event is not only a way to celebrate Diwali, but also a way to highlight the importance and celebration of diversity on UVM’s campus, Garimella said.

“[UVM] doesn’t have as much diversity in our community as we would like to say, so I think just celebrating what we’ve got and acknowledging all the differences is a beautiful thing,” he said.

The event kicked off featuring Garimella and his wife lighting the celebratory lamps, and was followed by the entire audience raising small faux candles in the air.

The celebration began after Garimella spoke.

Dances showcasing the many cultures that celebrate Diwali were performed by student organizations including Jazbaa, UVM’s Bollywood dance club and a drum performance by the Taiko club.

Behind the performers, images of places around the world which celebrate Diwali were projected in a slideshow. 

The performances concluded with a raffle containing prizes from Church Street’s Ten Thousand Villages store that sells fair trade handmade items from around the world.

The hosts invited guests to join in a feast featuring India’s traditional cuisines. The guests were free to mingle and chat with each other and the Davis Center’s fourth floor came to life with their chatter.

“There’s people of color, there’s people from every different country here, and just bringing it all together and enjoying it, especially after COVID, it feels really, really good,” Garimella said. 

Graduate student Rosaura Chapina was one of the hosts of the celebration.

“I think what this event means is family first and foremost, but also it’s about coming together to celebrate light, wisdom, loving your community, and so much more.” Chapina said.

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