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Saturday, September 24, 2022
<p>Biswas Rijal, right, a UF materials science graduate student, was cajoled into doing a traditional dance from North India called bhangra in front of about 600 people celebrating Diwali at the India Cultural and Education Center on Nov. 14, 2015. He pulled his friend, Gaurav Sultania, left, a UF civil engineering graduate student, onstage with him so he wouldn't have to perform alone.</p>

Biswas Rijal, right, a UF materials science graduate student, was cajoled into doing a traditional dance from North India called bhangra in front of about 600 people celebrating Diwali at the India Cultural and Education Center on Nov. 14, 2015. He pulled his friend, Gaurav Sultania, left, a UF civil engineering graduate student, onstage with him so he wouldn't have to perform alone.

UF students twirled their hands, stomped their feet and swiveled their hips Saturday night at the India Cultural and Education Center.

About 500 students celebrated Diwali, which was hosted by the Indian Graduate Students Association and cost about $3,000. Diwali, a Hindu holiday centered around good triumphing evil, is an annual Indian festival of lights.

In a theater setup, some students made paper lanterns in vibrant reds and yellows. Others posed for photos with Diwali lanterns. When the lights dimmed, students filed into their seats for performances of traditional Indian dances.

Among them was UF nuclear engineering doctoral student Tyler Remedes. The 23-year-old said he hadn’t seen the traditional dances before but liked their authenticity and elegance.

"It was nice to see a different culture," he said.

Attendance increased this year, and the group couldn’t allow all students into the center because of space. The organization’s vice president, Rohan Dhavalikar, said there was a larger turnout because it wasn’t held during Homecoming Week.

"We wanted people to enjoy doing things which we usually do in Diwali," the 25-year-old chemical engineering doctoral student said.

In India, people decorate their houses with paper lanterns, said Soumitra Sulekar, the organization’s president.

"This is one of the biggest festivals in India, and it’s a good way to get students together and provide a homelike atmosphere," the 26-year-old UF materials science and engineering doctoral student said.

After the dancing and singing performances, students ate rice and tofu curry as they chatted and introduced themselves to strangers.

"People can come here and meet each other," Sulekar said. "Most grad students don’t get to do that. That’s the whole point: to get people together and make them feel like home."

Biswas Rijal, right, a UF materials science graduate student, was cajoled into doing a traditional dance from North India called bhangra in front of about 600 people celebrating Diwali at the India Cultural and Education Center on Nov. 14, 2015. He pulled his friend, Gaurav Sultania, left, a UF civil engineering graduate student, onstage with him so he wouldn't have to perform alone.

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UF’s Indian Graduate Students Association adorned the India Cultural and Education Center with colorful lights and lanterns for a Diwali celebration on Nov. 14, 2015. They brought a bit of India to Gainesville to commemorate their biggest festival, the Festival of Lights.

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