I remember, about four years ago, during my freshman year at Penn State Harrisburg, I had the amazing opportunity to be able to experience the beauty and joy of a cultural celebration that was new to me. Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a Hindu holiday that is celebrated in India, Pakistan, Fiji, Guyana, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
My first Diwali, in Fall of 2014, was such a new experience for me. That year, I was invited to be a fashion show judge for the show. I remember getting ready to wear my first Sari (a traditional female garment that involves a lot of draping). The Sari I was lent was SIX YARDS long! I was so confused as to how to magically turn the fabric into the beautiful outfits the other girls had on. Luckily, I had the help of an amazing group of experienced Indian girls that made me ready for Diwali. Then I headed up to event and was amazed at the performances, the music, and the awesome food!
Fast-forward two years to Diwali 2016. The Diwali celebration had grown even bigger at this time. In 2016, the event had over 300 attendees and multiple performances ranging from dance performances, musical renditions, a fashion show and good food as always. The student center sparkled with lights and brightly colored decorations that really captured the festival of lights. Last year, I had the great opportunity to participate in the Diwali fashion show where I wore yet another Sari with the help of my friend Taanushree and Nishi, two international students from India. The Fashion show participants were from all over the world. Each participant strutted down runway confidently because of how great the colors of the traditional outfits made them look and feel. It was a great experience of cultural bonding that showed that regardless of cultural background, the language of celebration is universal across cultures.
Looking back, as I prepare for my last Diwali as an undergraduate student, I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to the wonderful students, faculty, and community volunteers who have shared this part of their culture with me. Now, equipped with my very own Lehenga (a traditional India outfit), and a pair of Jumka earrings, I am ready to once again celebrate the festival of lights! I hope I see you all at our Diwali celebration, October 20th, from 6-9 pm at the Student Center. The event will be hosted by four Global Ambassadors: Pravallika Sanke, Ever Barillas, Tomi Famadewa, and Manasi Sathe.