APAC and SASA host Diwali celebration



English teacher Devina Sakaria applies henna on a student during the Diwali celebration on Wednesday Oct. 26. The celebration helped break stereotypes regarding South Asian culture and bring the high school together.

Students gathered in the MLK Room during X-block on Wednesday, Oct. 26 to attend a Diwali celebration co-hosted by the Asian and Pacific American Club (APAC) and the South Asian Student Alliance (SASA).

Diwali is a widely celebrated holiday among several South Asian countries. Known as the “Festival of Lights,” it celebrates the victory of light over darkness, or good over evil.

APAC co-president and senior Krisha Grigaliunas said there is great diversity in how the holiday is celebrated by South Asians.

“Traditions differ between religions and even family to family,” Grigaliunas said. “But [they] include cleaning the entire house, making colorful rangolis, giving gifts to close friends and family, lighting diyas, enjoying delicious food and spending time with your loved ones.”

The event was the high school’s second major celebration of South Asian culture and holidays.
The first, which took place in April and was also led by APAC and SASA, commemorated Holi, known as the “Festival of Colors,” a celebration in honor of the Hindu deity, Krishna.

The Diwali celebration began with a speech from APAC and SASA leaders informing attendees of the origins and traditions of the holiday. Afterwards, students promptly lined up to try traditional South Asian desserts, including gulab jamun (deep-fried balls of milk solids dipped in syrup) and rasgulla (balls of cheese curds dipped in syrup). In the back of the room, henna, a paste applied to the palms and forearms to create designs, proved to be especially popular.

For sophomore and SASA member Navya Bhimani, doing henna for students and teachers at Wednesday’s celebration provided an opportunity for community building.

“What I enjoyed about it was that it gave me a chance to get to know and catch up with other people, as well as having casual conversations with others,” Bhimani said.

Grigaliunas said that the purpose of the event was to advance representation and awareness of South Asian culture within the high school.

“When South Asia comes up in history class, it’s usually in the context of Ancient India or the violent British involvement in the country,” Grigaliunas said. “I hope that by having annual Diwali celebrations in conjunction with more South Asian events, South Asian voices at BHS can be amplified and we can educate the non-South Asians around us about our culture in a meaningful, joyous context.”

This lack of representation was echoed by other South Asian community members. This includes SASA co-leader Saira Chander, who said that conversations surrounding the topic are nothing new for her club.

“In our last SASA meeting, many members expressed their frustration on how our culture, with an emphasis on religion, has been portrayed within the curriculum,” Chander said. “Some also said that they feel history classes have overgeneralized the complexities of Asian culture.”

Sophomore Sita Hug, a member of both SASA and APAC expressed her hope that the Diwali celebration will increase representation for South Asian students across the high school.

“I’m proud that the number of events for South Asian students is growing quickly, and hopefully the Holi and Diwali celebrations will lead to many more,” Hug said. “It’s definitely a big step in the right direction.”