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Diwali

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Madhura Chitnavis and Sarah Williams

Diwali (or Deepavali) is the five day long Hindu Festival of Lights, though it is celebrated by other religions groups such as Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and Arya Samajists. This year’s event occurred from Sunday, November 11th to Thursday the 15th. While many students on campus do not know about this special day, it is a huge event all over the world and is considered an official holiday in countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Malaysia, Singapore, and Fiji.

The main celebration is of the triumph of good over evil, but each day has a specific story associated with it. It is also a very personal holiday because, while there are some overarching traditions, every family celebrates it a little bit differently. This is an extremely rich tradition and even the simplest of decorations and actions have symbolic or historical meaning. People who celebrate this festival put lights up all over their homes and, like on Roanoke’s campus, fireworks are set off. This light is supposed to show people’s reverence to the heavens, thanks for what they have, and a request for health, wealth, knowledge, and peace.

While each day is a celebration, the main event is held on the third day. Because of this, Roanoke’s festivities began this past Tuesday, the 13th. As a part of Roanoke’s third annual Diwali celebrations, students, faculty, and guests performed dances and played traditional Indian music.

The first item in the Roanoke College Diwali celebrations was a classical, fast-paced Bharatanatayam Indian dance performed by sophomore, Madhura Chitnavis.  The second item in Wednesday’s festivities was a Bollywood dance performed by Tara Jordan, Maya Shende, and Laura Lee Wright.  After a short intermission, Dr. Anil Shende and Dr. John Protopappas played some classical Indian music with Dr. Protopappas playing the sitar accompanied by Dr. Shende on the tabla, or Indian drums.  The night concluded with fireworks on the back quad.

In addition to the music and dance performances, Roanoke College offered an Indian film, shown on Tuesday, and an Indian cooking class which was available to students this Thursday.