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Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, is a five-day holiday celebrating the victory of light over darkness.
The holiday is celebrated by several members of several religions, including Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. It usually falls in late Oct. or Nov., and this year is from Nov. 2 to 6. The third day — Thursday this year — is often set aside for the biggest party.
The University of Iowa’s Indian Student Alliance and South Asian Student Alliance on Saturday, Nov. 6, will host the 2021 Diwali festival at the Iowa Memorial Union Main Ballroom in Iowa City. The 6 p.m. event is open to the public, but attendance is limited to 400 people because of COVID-19. Advance tickets are available online for $15 VIP or $10 general admission, and kids 5 and younger can attend for free.
Diwali traditions differ by culture, but many Hindus light diyas, or small pots filled with oil, on the night of the new moon to invite the presence of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, according to Britannica.
They may also leave doors and windows open so Lakshmi can come in and bless residents with success and wealth. People celebrating Diwali may also decorate their houses and make rangoli, or elaborate floor designs of colored rice, sand or flower petals.
But the rainbow of lights is what stands out to Kiran Manisubbu, a University of Iowa student who celebrates Diwali.
“The best thing about Diwali has to be the different lights involved,” he said. “It’s a whole celebration dedicated to different lights, fireworks and candles.”
Manisubbu remembers when he was little, he would look forward to the holiday because of special foods, such as goat curry or goat biryani. When he was 15, his family traveled from Delaware to southern India for Diwali to see relatives and the spectacular light displays and fireworks.
The UI’s Indian Student Alliance and South Asian Student Alliance on Saturday will host a Diwali festival at the Iowa Memorial Union Main Ballroom in Iowa City. The 6 p.m. event is open to the public, but attendance is limited to 400 people because of COVID-19. Advance tickets are available online for $15 VIP or $10 general admission, and kids 5 and younger can attend for free.
“This year the celebration will have everything from live performances to an amazing collection of food,” Manisubbu said.
Spectators will learn a little bit about Diwali and see dancing and singing. Many performers and audience members will be wearing colorful saris, or draped dresses traditional in India. Organizers of the event, including Manisubbu, Tejaswini Kanan, Mallika Huynh and Risha Shetye, will do a special dance performance.
“It’s an event meant for families,” Manisubbu said. “We want to show our culture to everyone in Iowa.”