Diwali celebrations return to SU with a colorful addition

Diwali celebrations return to SU with a colorful addition

The National Organization of Minority Architecture Students and the International Mentor Squad collaborate on a new installation at this year’s festival.
Published: November 5, 2021
Lit electric tea lights sit on a gray stone bench.
Hundreds of small electric candles lit up the Orange Grove.

Neither cold temperatures nor afternoon showers dampened the excitement of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, returning to illuminate the Orange Grove last night after the 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID-19.

“It’s so exhilarating. It’s lovely to see people come together,” said Professor Romita Ray, who organized the event, “I think everybody has been wanting some kind of happy, joyous occasion.”

A new collaboration with the Syracuse chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS) and International Mentor Squad brought more excitement to this year’s festival. The architecture student organizations designed a special rangoli to serve as Diwali’s centerpiece. Rangoli, an ancient Indian folk art created for celebrations, consists of intricate patterns typically created with dyed powders. For their rangoli, though, the students turned to more modern materials and technology.

NOMAS and the International Mentor Squad have been working since May to bring their rangoli to life with third year architecture student and NOMAS treasurer Nikita Goswami leading the massive project.

A young woman adjusts a white swirl of fiberglass.
Architecture senior Janani Suriyanarayanan adjusts part of the Diwali installation during Thursdays celebration.

“I got in touch with Professor Ray,” Goswami said, “She told me about her installation, and I was like, okay we’ve got to combine those two together and really create something beautiful and exciting that everyone can see and experience.”

Over a hundred pieces of fiberglass were laser cut into intricate swirls, flowers and plumes that harken to the flora and peacock motifs in South Indian rangoli. The panels were spray painted in bright gold, teal, orange and magenta to mirror the colors used in North Indian designs. Architecture senior Janani Suriyanarayanan wanted the design to integrate different regional South Asian traditions.

The soft glowing lamps and delicious scent of samosas drew in students, professors, families and even Otto the Orange. For many students unable to celebrate Diwali with their families, the Grove provided a sense of community. Laughter soundtracked most of the evening, with only a few disappointed sighs when the samosas were gone.

“It’s like this big, happy nucleus right on campus,” Ray said, “That’s the real magic of Diwali — bringing people together around the lights. There’s something special about seeing these little lights gleam.”