Multicultural club aims to create a sense of home for many with Hindu celebration
MOSAIC, Mt. A’s multicultural club is hosting celebrations on campus for Diwali on November 4. Aashni Talati, a third-year psychology student and president of MOSAIC, is excited to be able to celebrate despite not being back home in India.
“The main concept is celebrating, so we’re celebrating in a way that incorporates student life as well as how Diwali is celebrated at home. We’re basically having a party with Indian music and food at the Convocation Hall, and then an afterparty.”
Diwali is the Indian festival of lights, a five-day Hindu celebration commemorating the triumph of good over evil and of light over darkness. It is India’s largest and most important celebration of the year, spread across five days. The Hindu new year is also the day after Diwali.
“It’s a Hindu festival, but there’s a lot of Hindus across India with lots of different cultures,” Talati explained, “because each province in India has a different kind of Hindu. So those days sort of incorporate each culture.”
Diwali has a rich history behind its origin, where the reasons for celebrating are slightly different depending on the province. “There’s the epic, Ramayan,” Talati began, referencing her own culture’s origins of Diwali. “It was to celebrate the exile of a king, his wife, and brother who were exiled for fourteen years in the forest. When he came home, the city of Ayodhya was lit up with diyas [candles]” to guide his path home.
Other stories also inspire the celebration. One story marks Diwali as the day the demon Narakasura was defeated by Lord Krishna, whereas others celebrate the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, wealth, and fertility. Overall, the stories share similar themes of triumph over evil.
Talati reminisced about how Diwali is celebrated across India, with large family gatherings, food, fireworks, going to temples for prayer, Black Friday-esque sales, and drinks, if you consume alcohol. “It’s auspicious to buy new things like cars — any big purchase,” she explained. “Everyone in India celebrates Diwali in a very different way, as you would [in Canada] for Christmas.”
MOSAIC’s Diwali celebration aims to provide a feeling of home away from home for students who can’t be with their families for the celebrations. “This is the one [event] that people tend to miss the most [in Canada]. It’s like being away from your family for Christmas,” Talati said. “International students don’t get to go home for a quick celebration or break… we get to go home maybe once a year, if that.”
MOSAIC’s Diwali is focused on the celebration and party aspects of the event rather than the religious celebrations. This is due to various factors, including the lack of access to a temple and the age demographic — Talati noted that it was more common for young people to celebrate Diwali through parties.
Talati emphasized how multicultural celebrations are essential for providing a sense of community on campus for international students especially, rather than leaving their culture back in their home country. “You grow up with so many traditions with your family, but these four years are to make your own family. Getting to know people and choosing to celebrate together is something that I think brings people together,” she said.
Talati encourages students who do not traditionally celebrate Diwali to get involved with the event. “Even if you don’t celebrate something traditionally in your culture, you learn to celebrate different cultures and you learn what celebrations are important to whom… hosting a Diwali celebration is a way to bring the community together and celebrate.”
She also referenced the importance of practicing multicultural awareness by getting involved in these types of events at Mt. A. “For domestic students, it’s important for them to also celebrate and attempt to understand [cultural events],” Talati said. “Mt. A especially is a school that prides itself on its international community. I think domestic students should make the most of that and educate themselves about the fact that there are other things outside the world of this big western country.”
MOSAIC is also facilitating Cultural Couch sessions, where people from different backgrounds can teach others in the community about their culture to practice cross-cultural communication and appreciation. Information on Cultural Couch sessions can be found on the MOSAIC Instagram, @mosaic_mta.
MOSAIC’s Diwali will be hosted on November 4, from 6-8 pm. The afterparty is from 8 pm to midnight. If you are looking to kick off reading week by celebrating with MOSAIC, tickets for the event can be purchased at the MASU office. “Everyone on campus is welcome, because our goal is to educate people here about it as well and involve them in our celebration,” Talati emphasized.
“The afterparty at the bar is five dollars, and the bar is open because partying and celebrating is very important for Diwali. And dancing, so the dance floor is also open. We’re going to start off the night with a karaoke night, and there’s also a signature drink called the Rocket, so be there or be square.”