Indian Student Association hosts Diwali celebration

Story by Emily Williams, Contributing writer

Murray State held its second Diwali celebration in Winslow Dining Hall Oct. 28 as an opportunity for students and guests to honor the religious festival celebrated during  mid to late October in India.

Mayur Pratapuram, graduate student from Hyderabad, India, attended the celebration. He said he serves as a liaison for the Indian Student Association (ISA) and helped prepare the food for the celebration.

“Diwali is basically a festival of lights,” Pratapuram said. “It’s all about good winning over bad. Every year at this time of year, India celebrates this, and believe me, it will be all lights in each and every place.”

Pratapuram said it is tradition for families to gather, offer their prayers to Hindu goddess Laxmi, dress in new clothes and then offer sweets and good food for their friends and family.

“The whole event is a big favorite for me because there are few festivals which I get to celebrate in the USA on such a large scale,” Pratapuram said. “But if I would have to choose the best part of the whole event it would definitely be the food.”

Victor Raj, faculty advisor for the ISA, said one of his roles is to facilitate activities that bring the Indian community together and give them an opportunity to share some of their Indian culture elements with their peers in the United States.

“It brings the world to students in this region in ways that a textbook may not be able to do,” Raj said. “With an event like this, students have the opportunity to see what the festival is all about, eat the Indian food, watch some of the entertainment and participate in the fireworks.”

Raj said Murray State has a mission to reach out to international students and to internationalize the campus as a whole.

Nicholas Buckingham, chef de cuisine of Winslow, said they had a fantastic spread for the menu at the celebration this year.

“Most of the items are vegetarian except a crowd favorite, chicken biryani,” Buckingham said. “One of my personal favorites is the gobi manchurian, a spicy fried cauliflower dish.”

Buckingham said the dinner consisted of  a total of six savory dishes and two desserts to choose from. All of the menu items were made by volunteers from the Indian student body.

Buckingham said he hopes the tradition will continue for many years to come.

Tim Bruce, executive chef manager at Murray State Dining Services, said they are fortunate to have a lot of great young men and women student workers from India and that is where the idea for a Diwali celebration originated.

“They are a large part of our staff and have been really great to work with,” Bruce said. “Because of that, our chef de cuisine, Nick Buckingham, had the idea that we should do a Diwali meal last year and it was a great success.”

Bruce said the celebration  gives Murray State students, faculty and staff an opportunity to celebrate a wonderful culture and to partner with the Indian Student Organization.