Diwali celebration shines light on cultures at Tech

Photos by Dani Sisson Student Publications

In today’s hectic world, social media, constant news updates and text messages often distract from the simple joy of living in the moment and being more present. 

However, time slowed down on Nov. 4, 2019 for members of the Tech community at the annual Diwali Exhibition hosted in the Student Center Ballroom. 

This exhibition was hosted by the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha (BAPS) Campus Fellowship. The organization is affiliated with the BAPS Hindu temple, or mandir, located in Lilburn, Georgia. 

The exhibition itself is the result of several months of hard work. The efforts were led by Jay Patel, second-year IE and upcoming BAPS Campus Fellowship president. The efforts began months in advance and included help from over 85 volunteers. 

The fruits of the labor? The exhibition featured an informational video, various interactive activities, live music, food and more. The purpose? To celebrate Diwali. 

“Each day [of the celebration] has a different significance but the over-arching theme of Diwali is the victory of good over evil or light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance,” said Vandan Patel, fourth-year EE and the current BAPS president. 

After viewing an informational video that discussed the meaning of the holiday, attendees were provided the chance to engage more actively with the holiday and its themes by participating in the many different activity stations that were exhibited. 

One activity included making rangoli out of origami hearts. Each participant received a sheet of paper on which they wrote an accomplishment from the last year, or an accomplishment they hoped to achieve in the upcoming year. 

“That’s something we all do as a family and [we are] trying to show that Tech is a big family itself,” said Vandan Patel. “Each person added their heart to that rangoli and that made it a whole additive rangoli with Georgia Tech.”

Another booth featured an activity which required attendees to find one special ball in a bucket full of balls as fast as possible. Attendees came to the conclusion that it was most effective to remove any unwanted ball from the bucket to speed up accomplishing the desired goal. 

Another station included a world peace vigil, in which attendees held small electric candles in a 30 second moment of silence with the intent to encourage unity and to also remind others they are not alone on Tech’s campus. Tying in the theme of mental health, there was also an activity which focused on meditation. 

Another booth even related dishonesty to mental health. 

This lesson about the importance of honesty was appreciated by Shrey Jain, third-year AE.

“It shows how easily we can lie in our days and how truth can actually help us instead of lying,” said Jain.  

In order to connect all of these lessons, Vandan Patel reflected on the overall theme of this year’s exhibition. 

“This year, we looked to see the values of truth, simplicity and integrity, and how they can benefit our careers and mental health,” said Vandan Patel. 

These ideas strongly impacted the purpose of the exhibition. 

“We wanted to focus on mental health and wellness and how meditation and introspection can help students to become [more] mindful and also help them throughout these next few months, especially leading into final exams,” said Vandan Patel.

Part of this effort includes making a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all. Harsh Patel even stressed the importance of such an environment for international or out-of-state students.

“It’s good for them to come here and celebrate it with the community,” said Harsh Patel. “I think it’s a way for them to kind of feel at home.”

But even those who may not have ties to or personal experiences with Diwali can find value in attending events such as these. 

“We wanted to educate everyone about the significance of Diwali,” said Vandan Patel. “Growing up, we participated in these traditions while not knowing the deeper meaning, and so we kind of wanted to share that as best we could to a greater audience.” 

On a broader scale, learning about another culture through events like these, especially with a focus on mental health, can be applied to almost any attendee’s life. 

“I think it’s important because in a normal day to day college life, we usually ignore the values of honesty, truthfulness, integrity and stuff like that,” said Harshil Shah, third-year CS. 

“We are so much [more] focused on completing our homework, studying for a test and getting good internships that we often forget about all these other things that make us more human.”

Vandan Patel points to benefits of attending cultural events such as these in the professional world. 

“In a career perspective, if you think about it, if you have a co-worker who celebrates Diwali, then you don’t become ignorant because you know what Diwali stands for. 

“You can approach them and, at the same time, you start to connect to them on a deeper level,” said Vandan Patel. 

Although the 2019 Diwali Exhibition just occurred, the BAPS Campus Fellowship is already planning for next year’s event and considering additional improvements to be made. 

“How can we get a bigger audience? And how can people that came in years previous can get different details and different ideas?” Vandan Patel asked.

In keeping with the goal of drawing a wider audience and adding different ideas to the event, those in attendance — such as Jain — also explored the importance of diversity on campus.

“It helps spread awareness about other cultures and it also kind of unties people around campus. [You can] learn about other cultures and how the common values of humans are tied into every culture,” said Jain.