Colorful tablecloths are splayed across a series of tables, with flowers and twinkling lights carefully placed in the center. Buzzing around the room, a cluster of women in bright dresses complete their final preparations for the big celebration. The occasion? Diwali, the festival of lights.
Bollywood dance performance, with elaborate outfits and choreography.
The official day that Diwali was celebrated fell on Oct. 30 this year, but this past Saturday night, Seattle University put on a belated celebration. Folks from all walks of life gathered in the Student Center to celebrate, eat, and join in community with one another. There were many students attending who were unfamiliar with the holiday, including Seattle U student Naod Sebhat.
“My friend Calvin invited our group of friends, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I came and it seems really cool,” Sebhat said.
Around the room there were different decorations and activities set up. A table with a spread of goodies available for purchase was in one of the far corners. Some of these items included henna, colorful pillow covers, scarves, bangles, and bindis. Seattle U student Saumya Jain expressed lots of enthusiasm for the event.
“This is one of the Hindu’s biggest celebrations, so I celebrate it really largely at home.” Jain said “It’s nice that school is doing something for other people to learn about this event as well. I’m really excited for the dancers,”
While many of the students I were Hindu, attendees learned that Hindus are not the only religious group that celebrates Diwali—Sikhs do as well. Seattle U student Rania Kur explained this further.
“I’m Sikh, so Diwali means something different for me than it does for other Indians at our school who are Hindu,” Kur said. “For Sikhs, [Diwali] is also called Bandhi Chorh Diwas. Having a cultural event like this adds more inclusion, and to bring my friend to something like this, it’s pretty cool. I can’t really bring her to when I celebrate this event [at home], but coming here is quite close.”
The event began, opening with a beautiful dance performance. The dancer had bells wrapped around her ankles, which jingled lightly with every step she took. Her arms stretched into the air as she twirled her wrists to the tune of the music. Her long flowing dress nearly graced the floor. When she finished, the whole room roared with applause. Then, the lines began for one of the most widely anticipated attractions: the food. First-year Jonathan Choe enjoyed some lentils, which he said were exceptionally prepared.
“I think a lot of people, why there’s so much tension between different groups of people, is because they don’t understand,” Choe said. “[Marie Curie] said, ‘Nothing is to be feared, only to be understood.’ So I think we either have the choice to fear or understand, and understanding is a wonderful thing.”
The night continued with a trivia game awarding various prizes, a photo booth, henna or “mehndi,” and lots of joy. “In different cultures and regions, festivals are celebrated as reminder of our beliefs. As means to spread harmony and happiness. And for us in India, Diwali is a time to do that,” Gouri Hundlekar said.
Hundlekar expressed that she was about to graduate, and that she really hopes to see this Seattle U event continue into the future. In conversation with Seattle U staff member Trivish Gandhi, he confessed that this was his first Diwali in Seattle.
“Diwali is very important to me because I’m Hindu, but as an Indian guy living in America of British origin, it’s new to me because I’m seeing it through an American point of view, opposed to a British point of view. It actually fascinates me how it’s done somewhere else, the different approach to it,” Gandhi said.
The night ended with a huge dance celebration. The dancers pulled audience members into the performance, and it became one large dance party. The ending of the event truly reflected the sentiment expressed by many people I spoke with: an active pursuit of understanding. To engage and join in dance with so many people who come from diverse backgrounds was an exciting and freeing experience. Diwali, the celebration of light, brought smiles to the faces of many Seattle University students. Some attended because it brought them back to elements of home, others attended to learn about the traditions of others who come from places very different from themselves, but all were welcome, and all had fun.
Haley may be reached at