Diwali: The Festival of Lights

Students gathered for performances and a celebration of love

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Top Naach after their performance at the Diwali celebration // Photo courtesy of Ruhani Singh '23

Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important festivals celebrated by a plethora of religions in the South-Asian community. Top Naach, Muhlenberg’s South Asian dance group and affinity space, hosts an annual campus-wide Diwali celebration every year and this year, it was on Friday, Nov.4.

It was a huge success, with different acapella and dance groups performing, and Indian food for everyone to enjoy. The Event Space was beautifully decorated with traditional Indian pieces of cloth on the walls, lanterns and “diyas,” which are Indian clay lamps made of wet mud, oil and cotton. The speakers were blasting fun Bollywood music, and the Event Space was filled with both students and faculty for the celebration.

A lot of effort and hard work was put into this celebration, and it is one of the biggest events the Office of Multicultural Life (OML) throws every year. Especially for the international students of Top Naach, this is a bright festival that they love to celebrate every year. Ruhani Singh ‘23, the president of Top Naach, spoke nostalgically about what Diwali means to her saying, “Diwali is one of the biggest festivals I celebrate back home in India. Being an international student so away from home, Top Naach’s celebration of Diwali—from my very first year at Muhlenberg—is something very close and special to me! It is a way for me to feel a bit of home here and also have the opportunity to share this beautiful festival with my community here. It is a festival where all friends and family come together to share happiness and love, and that is what Top Naach works towards at our celebrations too! For me, personally, this year was bittersweet as it was my last Diwali at ‘Berg, yet one of the most memorable ones!”

She then gave a shout out to the various people involved, and highlighted the culmination of departments and groups who put their effort into creating this successful event. “The entire semester, my amazing E-board—Shobha [Pai ‘24], Noah [Ryall ‘25] and Catherine [Debah ‘24]—we all worked with all our team members to make this event a great success. A huge shoutout to all my Top Naachers for their hard work. This event would also have not been possible without the support of our advisor – [Purvi Parikh, Ph.D.], Robin [Riley-Casey], OML, OISS, Sodexo, Berg Productions, our very own DJ, Muntasir Ali [‘23], as well as all the performance groups who came to brighten the event!”

“Top Naach’s celebration of Diwali… is something very close and special to me! It is a way for me to feel a bit of home here and also have the opportunity to share this beautiful festival with my community here.”

Ruhani Singh ‘23

Pai, the secretary for Top Naach, also mentioned, “There is a lot of coordination between different departments. We take support from OML and Religious and Spiritual Life. Robin Riley-Casey and Janelle Neubauer have guided us a lot through this whole process. This is also a lot of coordinating between ‘Berg Productions. Jonah Adamsik coordinates the lighting and production of the whole event. Then there is housekeeping who we are so grateful to, who set up the whole event.”

Another unique aspect of the event were the three entertainment tables set up on the sides. There was a rangoli making station, in which one can make beautiful designs using stencils and colored powder on paper. On the other side was a diya painting table, where one could paint clay lamps in a variety of colors and then take them back home. What seemed to excite everyone the most was the professional mehendi artist, Sophie (@hennachakra), who gave people henna tattoos for free.

The entertainment started with two a capella groups, Noteworthy and Chaimonics, who set the cheerful mood within the audience. They were followed by Mint and Poised Ivy, two of Muhlenberg’s dance groups who gave spectacular performances. Charis Bakirtzis ‘26, a member of Top Naach, said, “It was a really unique experience that I really enjoyed. I had never celebrated it, but it was really fun and interesting to get to know about it. I love my Top Naach family and it was an extremely valuable experience.”

Top Naach then had a small presentation set up, done by its members, which explained the significance of Diwali to South Asians, the mythology behind it and then they gave lovely personal stories of how they celebrated Diwali in their very own family. Amelia Blanco ‘26, who attended the event, was really impressed with the dances and the presentation, and talked about how “the dances were so mesmerizing! I loved the cultural enrichment it provided me, especially with that great presentation about Diwali. It was very informative and humorous as well!”

“I think it was a beautiful representation of the unity that we as a community share, and one that I’ll cherish forever.”

Marilyn Rajesh ‘26

The hosts of the Diwali celebration, Top Naach, had a special performance to end the event on a huge bang. They danced to a fusion of western and Indian music, playing hits from popular Bollywood movies. Debah, the treasurer of Top Naach, was overwhelmed by the huge turnout for Diwali, and said, “It’s amazing to see so many students, faculty, and members of the community come out to learn and celebrate Diwali with us. The support [I] felt was overwhelmingly positive and I can’t be thankful enough to the Top Naach fam and the Muhlenberg community. Top Naach has created a safe space for those of South Asian descent on campus and are welcoming to those who are interested in learning more about the culture and participating in performances. I really appreciate everyone coming out and I hope to feel the same love and support next semester for Top Naach’s Holi celebration and performance!”

Pai said, “Diwali is traditionally celebrated for community and communal bonding. It is less about the actual mythology, but more about being around people you love. We wanted to get that feeling of love in our community. Having a bigger Diwali event and showing South Asian culture is an important part for us, and that’s what Top Naach has been doing for a while.”

The Diwali celebration is an excellent example of bringing community together, and spreading love and joy to everyone through your culture and traditions. Marilyn Rajesh ‘26, a member of Top Naach, expressed,”I think it was a beautiful representation of the unity that we as a community share, and one that I’ll cherish forever.”

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