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Festival of Light illuminates Mills with dance and culture

Students and community members gathered on Mills lawn to enjoy food, music, and dance. (Curtis Shaffer, Student Photographer)

Mills lawn transformed into a decorated and dance-filled festival on Tuesday night in celebration of Diwali, a South Asian holiday that celebrates the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. 

The event was hosted by DESI, a student organization at Rollins that celebrates South Asian culture, as the final event of Rollins’ International Education Week. The festival featured LED and candle lighting, imitating a popular Hindu festival of lights that is celebrated throughout India and South Asia. 

The festival highlights the story of Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana, an evil scholar who wanted to overpower the other deities, according to Hindu belief. As a result, the whole city was lit in his honor. During Diwali, just about every house in India celebrates with fireworks. The gods Ganesha and Lakshmi are prayed to for wealth and good fortune. 

Dr. Jayarashee Shivamoggi hands out illuminating candles. (Curtis Shaffer, Student Photographer)

For over ten years, DESI has been hosting and celebrating Diwali. Diwali has offered the whole Rollins community an opportunity to partake in the festival’s traditions since 2004.

“Diwali at Rollins is always popular and the Rollins community can enjoy dance and music performances, beautiful lighting and decorations, a small prayer ceremony, and of course, amazing Indian food catered especially to us,” said Ansh Jain (‘19), the former president and current advisor to the president of DESI. 

Siddhant Jain (’20), the current president of DESI, provided an overview of this year’s festival. It began with puja, a traditional Hindu prayer. DESI catered a wide variety of Indian food, such as curry and samosas, and featured a variety of dance performances. 

 (Curtis Shaffer, Student Photographer)

A group of University of Central Florida Indian-style dancers, who were ranked as the number one Indian dancers in Florida, danced at the festival along with additional performances from members of DESI, such as Siddhant, himself.

Additionally, the festival included professional photographers and backdrops that featured firework scenery. As the evening progressed, the “Ball of a Night” began, where students and the Rollins community were encouraged to join the others on the floor and dance to both Indian and American music. 

“It is a great place to not only see people you know dressed in traditional Indian clothing, but it is also a great place to get a better sense of South Asian culture,” said Siddhant.

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