On the evening of Nov. 11, the typically quiet Oxford amphitheater lit up. Sparklers, students adorned with shimmering dresses, jubilant dancing: this was Oxford College’s 2021 Diwali celebration.

Students perform a dance during the Diwali celebration. (The Emory Wheel//Michael Chan)

Diwali is one of the major religious festivals in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. It is observed on the 15th day of the eighth month (the month of Kartik) on the Hindu lunar calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, it fell on Nov. 4 this year. The significance of the holiday differs for each religion, but generally, it is viewed as a celebration of light.

This year, the festival of lights was hosted by both Oxford’s Hindu Student Association (HSA) and the South Asian Cultural Association (SACA). The event is normally only hosted by HSA; however, since the onset of the COVID pandemic, the two organizations have collaborated to host the highly anticipated event. 

Many students came to enjoy the South Asian food and sweets, the diya painting, henna tattoos, rangoli and the sparklers. Yet, the clear highlight of the show was the dance performances.

SACA president Aditi Mishra (22Ox) choreographed SACA’s dance, and HSA also performed a dance. Together, the two groups then performed a famous dance from the movie, “Om Shanti Om,” which is about a family coming together. 

As a choreographer, Mishra set the expectations high for her dancers. 

“I was a little hard on them, only because I want it to be perfect,” she said. 

Mishra said the planning for Diwali began at the start of the year. 

“Within the first month, we already decided on the date and that it would be in the amphitheater,” Mishra said. “But the more serious part of our planning happened once we got our freshmen executive board members, and they helped with a lot of PR, making posters and making sure people knew about this.”

Aditi Mishra (22Ox) gets ready to perform for the Diwali celebration. (The Emory Wheel//Eva Roytburg)

Many students indeed came to what the flyers called the “biggest event at Oxford.” One of the attendees, Nina Nair (23Ox), said she was very excited about the event.

“I celebrate Diwali, and it’s kind of a time where friends and family get together to celebrate light and love,” Nair said. “It’s very fun. Usually [my family and I] either go to or host a Diwali party. We dress up and we light little candles called diyas, and that’s what Diwali represents.”

Satya Thota (21Ox), who also attended Diwali and celebrates it at home, said that he felt it was good to celebrate something earlier in the holiday season. 

“With this event, we can attract non-Indian people since some of the other holidays are more religious,” Thota said. “I will say, there is a religious context behind the lights. It’s great to know the context, but you don’t really need to know it to enjoy it.”

Overall, though, Thota and others were excited to be enjoying the festivities together.

“It’s really fun to just talk and hang out with people, celebrating something,” Thota said.