FAIRBANKS — The days are getting shorter and darker, but that didn’t stop the Namaste India Club at the University of Alaska Fairbanks from celebrating light long into the night last weekend.
Last Saturday, the club hosted a celebration for Diwali, the festival of lights. Diwali is an Indian celebration of the victory of good over evil.
The festival of Diwali and the way it is celebrated varies from region to region in India, but the essence of it is the same — to rejoice in inner light. The word “diwali” comes from the Sanskrit word “deepvali,” which means a row of lights. Diwali is spiritually significant in celebrating awareness of inner light.
The holiday has many stories behind it, but the most popular one comes from the Sanskrit epic “Ramayana.” It tells the story of Lord Rama; his wife, Sita; and his brother, Lakshamana, returning to their kingdom after defeating a demon king. When they return in the dark of night, the residents of their kingdom light oil lamps to welcome them home.
Namaste India adviser Shirish Patil has been throwing Diwali celebrations in Fairbanks since the late 1980s. Back then there was a small group who would have a potluck in someone’s kitchen.
About 10 years ago, the Indian student population at UAF increased substantially. Since then, the Diwali celebration has increased as well. The event has sold out for the last few years, and last weekend’s celebration was no exception.
More than 200 people turned out to join in the celebrations, which included Bollywood dancing, drumming and flute playing, rapping in Marathi and lots of Indian food.
Elika Roohi is a senior in the journalism department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.