FGCU’s Asian Student Association Celebrates Diwali


Hervinder Kaur

Shyam Sharma, president of ASA, leads the Aarti prayers.

Hervinder Kaur, Staff Writer

Diwali or Deepavali, also known as the “festival of lights” is a celebration that commemorates the triumph of good over evil. Diwali originates from the Sanskrit word “Dipa” which means light or lamp, and “avail” which translates to a row or series. Hence, Diwali is the “festival of lights.” 

It’s a significant event for millions of Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains around the globe, and each religion observes the festival with different origin stories.

As a Malaysian born Sikh, Diwali is a family-oriented celebration for me, a day spent sharing festive cookies and desserts with them. In Malaysia, just like India, Diwali marks a national holiday. This year was my first Diwali celebrated away from my family, here in FGCU.

To help many other students like me, the Asian Student Association (ASA) had a small Diwali gathering on Tuesday, Oct. 25. ASA is a newly rebranded association at FGCU. It aims to provide support to other Asian American students and spread awareness about the Asian cultures. Shyam Sharma, the president of ASA, came up with the idea of organizing this after realizing not many are aware of Diwali at FGCU.

The Aarti prayer that the Asian Student Association set up.

The small Diwali celebration kicked off with an Aarti prayer offered to Goddess Lakshmi, followed by pizza feasting. At home, Diwali is marked by the lighting of an oil lamp, which is the namesake of the festival itself. 

Diwali isn’t new to America; President Barack Obama was the first President to light an oil lamp in the White House. On Oct. 24, 2022, President Joe Biden hosted the largest Diwali celebration ever held in the White House.

Home to the birthplace of Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism, India observes the largest Diwali celebration every year. Besides India, Diwali is also celebrated in much grandeur in Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Tobago and in other countries with large South Asian diaspora. 

The United States itself has about 4.5 million people of Indian heritage. Unlike Christmas, the day when Diwali is observed changes every year as it follows the Hindu calendar and is celebrated on the 2nd day of the month of Kartik. 

Today, Diwali celebrations have regional and religious practice differences. For the Hindus, Diwali is a five-day celebration that begins and ends with different prayers, known as puja, which varies from the Sikhs and Jains.

FGCU students of Indian heritage gathered for the Asian Student Association’s Diwali celebration in their traditional attire.

The Diwali celebration by ASA this year was a stepping stone to more activities in the future. It is hoped that Asian centred celebrations will be more prevalent at FGCU in the coming years. 

May this year’s Diwali illuminate each and every one of our lives with abundance of joy and happiness.