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Stanford and Palo Alto host Diwali celebrations

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White Plaza and Cubberley Community Center buzzed with energy Saturday night as over 500 attendees, many dressed in traditional Indian clothes, gathered at each artfully-decorated venue to celebrate Diwali. Both events offered a festive atmosphere, featuring a wide variety of performances, food and dancing.

Stanford Diwali, hosted by Stanford Hindu Students Association (HSA), began at 5 p.m. in Memorial Church and featured student performers along with prayer chanting. The crowd headed over to White Plaza around 7 p.m. where other student groups performed and attendees enjoyed a free Indian dinner. The night ended at Old Union Ballroom with students dancing to Bollywood music from a live DJ. 

Shridhar Athinarayanan ’23, a tenor for Stanford Raagapella, performed with the a cappella group at White Plaza. 

“It’s been our biggest performance yet, so it was really nice to see that there was a big crowd of people who came to support Diwali, and it’s nice to see that Stanford has multiple Diwali events,” Athinarayanan said. 

After the performances ended, volunteers served authentic Indian cuisine to the attendees.  

“The food was really good and they did a good job making sure the line moved quickly,” Athinarayanan said.

In Palo Alto, the PA-Desi, a Palo Alto-based South Asian community group organized a Diwali gala in partnership with India Community Center (ICC) Mid-Peninsula. The event featured a sit-down dinner, dances by local residents, other speakers and performances, and a Bollywood dance floor with popular Indian songs playing, much to the delight of the kids. 

Ashok Srinivasan, Rajiv Bhateja and Gauri Saksena, who helped organize the event as a part of a nine person committee, noted the steady growth in popularity of Diwali celebrations.

“In the past, the Palo Alto South Asians held informal Diwali get-togethers in a park,” Srinivasan said. 

“Last year, a few volunteers organized a sold out talent show and dinner event for 250 people at Mitchell Park Community Center,” Bhateja said. “That was a big success. This year, the India Community Center got involved and we got a larger facility, hosting 550 people. It took us several months and a lot of detailed planning.”

Even with the increase in the event’s size, Saksena said, logistics went smoothly and the event was a huge success. 

“Several people told us this was the best Diwali event they had attended,” she said. “The support from ICC made things easier. Additionally, it was lovely to see the sponsors for the event being so passionate about supporting their community.”

Anirma Gupta, who attended the event, also praised the role of community. 

“I think the event helped to bring the community together as an opportunity to connect with old friends and meet new ones,” Gupta said. “The assigned seating and ability to request seating with your friends made the evening all the more fun and engaging.”

Her favorite part of the night were the performances. 

Gupta said, “It was nice to see the difference performers, from the smallest child to the elders all performing with joy and enthusiasm.”

Correction: The article has been updated to reflect that two quotes previously attributed to Gauri Saksena actually came from fellow event organizers Ashok Srinivasan and Rajiv Bhateja.

Contact Ujwal Srivastava at ujwal ‘at’ stanford.edu.