By Danny Martella

For The Diamondback

Diyas illuminated the fountain on McKeldin Mall Monday as dozens of University of Maryland community members celebrated Diwali.

The festivities were part of the Indian Student Association’s “Diwali Diya Night” event. Attendees said the event, which included the painting and lighting of diyas, helped foster togetherness during the “family-oriented holiday.”

Diwali, known as the “Festival of Lights,” is a five-day holiday observed by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs to celebrate the return from exile of Lord Rama, a Hindu deity representing chivalry and virtue. This year, Diwali’s main celebration — where people celebrate with lit candles, lanterns and fireworks — was on Sunday.

Pranav Peddamalla, a junior computer science major and a member of the ISA programming committee, helped plan Monday’s event. He hoped that the event would allow students to socialize in celebration of Diwali.

“We just have this little social event here where people can come here and paint the diyas [and] socialize with other people,” Peddamalla said.

The celebration began at 6 p.m. at Stamp Student Union where students painted their own diyas — traditional small clay oil lamps shaped like water droplets. Then, the group lit the diyas and placed them into the McKeldin Mall fountain.

For several students, Diwali is an opportunity to spend time and celebrate with their families.

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Senior psychology major Ishani Kantawala said Diwali is one of her favorite holidays.

“I always like to spend time with family or one of our family friends, so it’s always been a really fun holiday for me,” Kantawala said.

Sophomore immersive media design major Dhruv Suriemphasized that family is at the core of Diwali celebrations.

Diwali is a means of spending time with family and friends for a “night of peace,” Suri said. Suri, a historian for ISA, said his family eats dinner and prays together to celebrate the festival.”

Peddamalla highlighted that “Diwali Diya Night” helped build a community for students on campus.

“There’s a lot of people painting diyas [and] having a good time,” Peddamalla said. ”I think that is a very close second to being with your family and spending time [with them].”

Moving forward, Suri encouraged students to attend other ISA events.

“We just strive to share and showcase Indian culture to everyone,” Suri said. “We are going to be holding a lot more events in the coming semesters so definitely keep an eye out for that.”