UT community celebrates coming home during Diwali

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Photo Credit: Erika Ramirez | Daily Texan Staff

For Hindus, Diwali is an annual celebration of good conquering evil in the epic “Ramayana.” In the epic’s climax, Rama defeats the demon king Ravana and returns home. The story can be interpreted as light’s victory over darkness, said Ganesh Chittari, biology and French sophomore.

“That’s one of the reasons fireworks and sparklers are used,” Chittari said. “Since it’s done throughout the night, it illuminates the darkness.”

The annual Diwali celebration, hosted by the Hindu Students Association, lit up the Main Mall on Wednesday evening. The event was open to all students regardless of faith and included education booths, food and sparklers.

Apurva Gunturu, Hindu Students Association co-chair, said this year’s theme “Coming Home” was chosen to coincide with Rama’s return home after exile and because students can relate to the theme. 

“We transition away from this stage of being at home with our parents and our families and our community we grew up around to being pulled into this new environment with 50,000 students,” Plan II sophomore Gunturu said. “So we have to start forging our own paths from here, making our own homes in a sense.”

Fireworks were absent in this year’s Diwali celebration at UT. The fireworks typically shoot off near the UT Tower, but when the fireworks vendor arrived Wednesday afternoon they noticed a dangerous amount of flammable construction material around the Tower.

“In all the 24 years this event has been hosted here, that much construction hasn’t happened,” Gunturu said. “We want to keep UT warm, but we don’t want to burn it down.”

The event began with Homam Pooja, where about 40 Hindu and non-Hindu students removed their shoes and sat on the ground in front of the Tower. They prayed to the Hindu god Ganesha to remove obstacles in their lives and Lakshmi for knowledge. The prayer concluded with “Havana,” an offering tossed into a communal fire, symbolizing how all of their possessions belong to their gods.

Government freshman Abby Gammon, who is not Hindu, was convinced to attend by her Hindu roommate. Despite being unable to understand the spoken prayer itself, Gammon said the experience helped her understand what her roommate has been talking about.

“It’s important that we understand that there are other cultures and other religions other than what we believe and if we can’t respect those … then you can’t understand others,” Gammon said.