USC's Indian Cultural Exchange kicked off International Education Week on Nov. 12 with a celebration of the Hindu holiday Diwali, a celebration of Indian heritage, bringing students from all backgrounds together.
Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Lights and is one of the most important festivals in the religion. The event honors Hindu history, according to Laura Rudisell, Indian Cultural Exchange's philanthropy chair.
“It represents the overcoming of good over evil, light over dark,” the fourth-year global studies and Arabic student said. ”It's just meant to be exactly what Diwali is for, to bring everyone together from all walks of life to come celebrate a good, positive time with a lot of good friends.”
Members and visitors were invited to try traditional Indian food such as chili chicken and paneer and wear traditional Indian clothing to honor the culture. Diwali takes place around the first night of the new moon between the months of Asvina and Kartika in the Hindu calendar, falling on Nov. 7 this year.
Classes will often still be in session during holidays such as Diwali and Hanukkah. Clubs like the Indian Cultural Exchange and others host their own celebrations on campus to help students feel at home and connected to their culture. For first-year students like Shashaank Rajaraman, an international business and economics student, events like these help with staying connected while away from home.
“Culture has always been a huge thing for me, because my parents raised me to be a Hindu and to participate in all of these events,” Rajaraman said. "It’s always good to keep in touch with our culture. Because in the end, it’s going to be what identifies us, and what brings us all together.”
Sahil Kapoor, fourth-year mechanical engineering student and Indian Cultural Exchange's president, said the group wants to promote unity among different cultures on campus.
“I want to make sure everyone knows, because of the name itself says ‘Indian Cultural Exchange,' but we want to make sure that we are welcoming to all students of every single ethnicity,” Kapoor said.
Rudisell said she was grateful for the chance to showcase the importance of Diwali.
“We love to see Diwali represented on campus, because I think every holiday around this time deserves representation," Rudisell said. "Just like we’re going to recognize Christmas, we need to recognize Diwali, because it’s an important event to so many people here on campus."