Diwali celebration brings different cultures together

Story by Andrea Valadez-Angulo
Photos courtesy of Bethany Reyes

October 23’s celebration of the traditional Hindu holiday Diwali brought California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) members together to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. 

While the official day of Diwali was on Oct. 24, the Otter Cross Cultural Center (OC3) partnered up with the Makerspace and the Otter Student Union (OSU) on Sunday, Oct. 23 to allow students and faculty to celebrate the holiday together.

Also known as the Festival of Lights, Diwali is typically celebrated over the course of five days in traditional Hindu culture. 

The week-long celebration starts off with a deep clean of the home. The following day consists of putting out decorations in the form of clay lamps to signify spiritual lightness that defends against evil. On the third and main day of the festival, families gather for Lakshmi puja, where they pray to Goddess Lakshmi. This is followed by a feast and fireworks.

 On day four, which is the first day of the new year, friends and family gather to exchange gifts and express gratitude for one another. On the fifth and final day of the Festival of Lights, siblings gather and indulge in a luxurious meal.

By partnering with the Makerspace, the OC3 provided students with the ability to make their own clay lanterns and decorate them with a variety of glitter, beads and as many colors as they desired. 

The school also hired a local restaurant, Ambrosia India Bistro, to cater the event. Attendees had a choice of various traditional Indian delicacies such as Kesari Kheer (rice pudding), Gulab Jamun (the national dessert of India) and a delicious Mango Lassi.

According to OC3 Program Coordinator Victoria Gomez, the driving force behind which holidays get celebrated on campus is students’ voices. “When more students come and say ‘I want to be celebrated. I have holidays that my family celebrates but aren’t recognized on campus,’” it provides CSUMB with more intel on how to uplift its students.

“I wanted to focus on more wellness events around communities that don’t have a lot of visibility on campus,” said OC3 Sustainability and Wellness Coordinator Carmen Lavilla. 

Lavilla pitched the idea to offer a celebration of Diwali on campus in order to provide more visibility for students of the Southeast Asian, Desi and Arab communities “who rarely get recognized and celebrated,” at CSUMB.

Lavilla’s dedication to providing visibility for underrepresented communities on campus was definitely appreciated. 

“My whole family is back in India so this [event] makes me feel more at home,” said first-year Shreya Upashi.

Diwali is ultimately “a festival of gratitude,” said Upashi while beaming about the ability to celebrate her favorite holiday even while being thousands of miles away from her family.
For information regarding upcoming campus events, CSUMB community members can visit https://csumb.edu/oc3/.

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