IATU lights up the night with a food-filled Diwali celebration


Daisy Rymer | Associate Design Editor

Diwali, the festival of lights, will be celebrated on campus by Indian Association of Tulane University (IATU). The festivities will include delicious food and musical performances.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is India’s hallmark holiday. It is a five-day-long affair, celebrated globally in countries such as Pakistan and Britain. Here in New Orleans, the Indian Association of Tulane invites Tulanians to break away from the traditional western holiday season by attending its annual Diwali soirée.

This year, IATU booked the Hilton Garden Inn for the evening of Saturday, Nov. 18. The association is providing free transportation and admission to all graduate and undergraduate students, promising a night of food, performances, dancing and music. It’s no shock spots filled up within 24 hours of registration opening to the public on OrgSync. 

Though Diwali is a national holiday in India, its significance and customs vary according to faith. These five holy days are central to Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism alike.

Whether they are commemorating the return of deities from exile, the birth of a goddess or a prophet’s achievement of nirvana, observers celebrate foremost the triumph of light over darkness. To represent this, decor at the Hilton will include candles and string lights.

“Back home, we lined our driveways with candles,” IATU Secretary Ishita Gulati said. “One of the reasons we couldn’t host it in the LBC was the rule against having open flames.”

Diwali is a time of spending, gathering and renovating. In preparation, people decorate their homes with rangoli, dress up in new clothes and henna their hands. IATU’s celebration this weekend will be a semi-formal event for which students are encouraged to put on their best Sunday clothes.

Attendees can expect to feast with popular savory foods such as tandoori chicken and biryani as well as sweet treats including gulab and jamun.

“There’ll be mostly North Indian and some South Indian food,” IATU Freshman Representative Shruthi Velrajan said. “We want to showcase all the foods of India because Diwali is celebrated everywhere in the country.”

Highlight performers will include a cappella groups such as Tulane University Vietnamese Association and Green Envy, along with none other than Jazbaa, Tulane’s Bollywood Dance Team.

Diwali is a growing tradition at Tulane. It allows students to gather and celebrate, and it encourages learning about and experiencing Indian culture. It also helps IATU to advertise and gain support among students.

“It gets people to attend more IATU events in the future,” Gulati said.

This strategy is certainly working, as Diwali attendance grows significantly each year, expanding from 150 people last year to 220 this year.

IATU secured a bigger venue this year in an attempt to accommodate all those who wanted to go. There is still a massive waitlist, however, so IATU hopes to book an even larger venue next year.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that TULA would be performing and that jalebi and barfi would be served.

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