Missing out on your favorite festival or holiday with your family is truly disheartening. But fret not, many international students celebrate major Indian festivals abroad and Diwali is one of the most popular Hindu festivals celebrated across the world. This festival of lights has become a household name in the USA with major associations organizing events and cultural activities to honor the day. Many top US universities like Harvard University, Princeton, and Yale organize Rangoli competitions, dance performances, and pujas for their students!
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What is Diwali?
- Diwali is a festival that is celebrated throughout India and the world is an important part of our cultural identity. The festival of lights is so named because it involves the lighting of small clay lamps (divas) filled with oil. That is, to represent the triumph of good over evil.
- Diwali is especially significant to Hindus because it commemorates Lord Rama’s return from his fourteen-year exile, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman, and his defeat of the demon-king Ravana.
- The king’s return is celebrated throughout India, and the entire country is lit up to welcome him. Spectacular fireworks are all over the sky, and people gather in open areas to burst smaller firecrackers. Families also gather to share sweets and snacks, and everyone dresses up in new clothes.
Origins of Diwali in the United States
- In 2003, George W. Bush, the President of the United States, began Diwali celebrations in the White House. Later, when it came to Diwali celebrations, Barack Obama followed in the footsteps of his predecessor.
- Employees from the White House also take part in Diwali festivities, including the lighting of Diyas.
- The festival is held in its entirety at New York’s South Street Seaport. The Diwali celebration here, hosted by The Association of Indians in America, NY Chapter, attracts approximately 100,000 people from all over the country. The event is a full-day extravaganza that celebrates community tradition, culture, and unity, culminating in a live grand display of fireworks illuminating the New York City skyline.
- The United States Postal Service also issued a Diwali stamp, which quickly became one of the country’s best-selling stamps.
- Diwali is also celebrated annually by the United Nations, which recognized it in 2014. The occasion is now an optional holiday at the UN, and a ‘Happy Diwali’ message is displayed on the organization’s New York headquarters on this day.
- The US House of Representatives also approved a resolution honoring Diwali, the “festival of lights.” The action not only recognizes an important feast in the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain religions, but it also recognizes the significance of the South Asian community in the United States.
How to Celebrate Diwali in the USA as an International Student?
- Many universities and colleges in the United States have a South Asian or Indian student organization that participates in Diwali celebrations with their classmates. The student group puts on a Diwali show every year, complete with lively dances, a humorous skit, and other entertaining acts.
- Every year, South Asian students from various campuses put on this show to celebrate their Hindu culture. Preparations for this show begin at the start of the school year, the Diwali show is where many people meet their best friends and find a community to which they feel they belong.
- The fashion show segments, which have become a staple of every Diwali show, were also included. The show concluded with the usual mix of lively Indian dances such as the Garba, Raas, and Bhangra.
- For many others, Diwali is all about feeling connected to their peers. It is about letting go of differences and embracing similarities. The show, for example, began with a ceremony called “Diya Lighting.”
- Participants in the Diya Lighting welcome the audience to the Diwali celebration in a variety of languages. By doing so, any barriers between cultures are removed, allowing for a sense of unity on this campus.
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Diwali in USA Universities
Here are some American universities that celebrate Diwali in USA for international students to celebrate diversity and culture:
After a long hiatus, the Hindu Students’ Council of Yale has revived the 1990s tradition of Diwali celebrations since 2005. Diwali in USA at the Yale University is a grand traditional affair where South Asian students can celebrate their favorite holiday away from home. Meditation/prayer and the singing of Hindu hymns are part of the hour-long Diwali pooja. Yale undergraduates, graduate/professional students, faculty, staff, family, friends, community members, and “anyone else who is interested” are welcome to attend this festival.
University of Pennsylvania
In collaboration with four other Penn and Drexel University organizations. Diwali in USA and at Penn has been an annual feature at Penn for the last few years, begins with a Rangoli competition, in which participants will be given dried flowers and colored powders. They have a Diwali puja and prayers for Lord Rama, Goddess Saraswati, and Lord Hanuman after the results. Penn Nasha and Nova Nassa from Villanova University present a few of their most popular songs. The floor is opened up for the general public to dance to dhol beats and Bollywood tunes. Scrumptious snacks and a lavish dinner featuring desi cuisine are also served, followed by a brief puja to evoke the true spirit of the festival and to make everyone feel at home.
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The University Of Wisconsin Madison
For the past five years, the University of Wisconsin Madison has organized a Diwali show in USA with the Indian Graduate Students’ Association (IGSA), a registered student organization, which includes Indian and other dances, music, and dramatic plays, followed by fireworks displays and dinners on this special occasion. At the function, they provide free dinner to up to 350 UW-Madison students, staff, and faculty on a first-come, first-served basis. This show is one of the largest events organized by student organizations on campus, attracting audiences of 1250 (full house) or more each year.
University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles is another popular university that celebrates Diwali in USA. The university has an active student body that organises cultural events to celebrate diversity in the country. The student body called South Asian Business Association (SABA), last fall, celebrated this festival with more than 400 domestic and international students. They transformed the UCLA Anderson’s North Terrace with diyas (lamps), served traditional Indian food and members of SABA were dressed in traditional Indian attire. The student body held Bhangra and Bollywood performances. They also organised activities like a mehndi or henna hand tattoo stall and showcase of rangoli (colorful art).
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Thus, we hope that this blog took you on a tour of the spectacular Diwali celebrations across the United States! Do you want to further your education in these culturally rich cities? Contact our experts at Leverage Edu and we will assist you in locating the best university for your interests and aspirations! Wishing you all a happy and safe Diwali!