New student group hosts Diwali festival at GVSU

GVL/Samantha Mosley - The Diwali celebration takes place in the Kirkhof Centers Grand River Room on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.

Samantha Mosley

GVL/Samantha Mosley – The Diwali celebration takes place in the Kirkhof Center’s Grand River Room on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016.

A celebration valuing the power of knowledge, hope and light over darkness was held at Grand Valley State University Saturday, Nov. 19 as part of the Diwali festival, more commonly known as the “Festival of Lights.”

Celebrated every autumn, the event was held by the newly founded GVSU Indian Student Association (ISA).

The ISA was founded in September and chose a Diwali celebration as the first event due to its timing and the cultural significance, said Gnana Rathan Velagapalli, president of the ISA.

This year, Diwali fell on Sunday, Oct. 30, but the ISA postponed the event to properly plan an authentic festival for its members and the GVSU community.

“It is one of the biggest festivals in India. Everyone celebrates it,” Velagapalli said. “It is something religious regarding winning good over bad. It is a technically a Hindu festival, but everybody celebrates this festival in India.”

Abhinandan Vidya, social media manager for the ISA, said traditional events, education and exchange are important goals of the ISA.

“We want to invite more Lakers to our future events,” Vidya said. “We want to help people understand our culture and reciprocate also.”

In India, the event is celebrated with millions of lights shining throughout the cities, performances and feasts. GVSU’s ISA followed these traditions with images of vibrant lights displayed, performances like singing and belly dancing and an Indian feast.

Nearly 60 people attended the Diwali event and guests were encouraged to wear traditional Indian clothing.

Another goal of the ISA, Velagapalli said, is to be a vital resource in helping Indian students connect to the greater GVSU community.

“We are coming from India. Moving to a different country is really a big thing,” Velagapalli said. “By forming an organization like this, we can help as mediators between faculty or domestic people or international people.”

“People needed a voice to be able to bring out their opinions, and a place to be able to enjoy themselves by preforming and having cultural events,” Vidya said. “I think this brings harmony with the group of Indians that we have at GVSU. We enjoy being Lakers but also we are Indians so it makes sense to have that kind of bridge.”

In addition, the ISA aims to promote diversity among individuals and communities.

“We believe diversity is important. It always makes sense for us to include other cultures into ours,” Vidya said. “We want to mix with the local community and the Laker community, and have a blast together.”

The ISA plans to hold their next event during the spring celebrating the festival of colors known as Holi. The ISA encourages all students to attend.

Velagapalli said the ISA holds open membership and encourages any student to join.

For more information on the ISA, visit