"Diwali is a time where my family comes together, and that's our biggest holiday where we have all our friends and relatives come over to our house,” Sivakumar said. “We have fireworks, we eat lots of great food and we wear lots of bright colors. Everything is based on light, and it has a lot of meaning to my family because it brings us together."
Senior Arvind Mallikarjunan, vice president of Hindu YUVA, said the club exhausts its budget each year in preparation for Diwali Night.
Mallikarjunan said members of Hindu YUVA fall on a spectrum in their religious affiliation because some members are very orthodox, while others don’t come from a very religious background.
He said Diwali Night is an opportunity for people who celebrate the holiday to have a place on campus to interact with others.
"For anyone who's missing home or missing their culture, we want people to feel like they're in a safe space where they can remember the things they may have experienced as children, or maybe haven't and have seen in movies or things like that,” Mallikarjunan said.
Sophomore Nikhil Rao said he plans to attend Diwali Night because he feels he has lost touch with his cultural roots, and he thinks the event will help him find them at UNC.
“I've found over the course of my time at Carolina so far that I've lost some of my cultural grounding in Indian customs, and I want to re-explore that part of myself,” Rao said.
Mallikarjunan said Diwali Night is not just for students who celebrate the holiday as part of their culture. He wants the event to be a chance for others to learn about the culture of the people who celebrate Diwali as well.
“For other students on campus who maybe don't have this sort of cultural background or cultural relationship, we're really looking for people to learn more about the culture and the people, and ultimately be a lot more open-minded to the things we do,” Mallikarjunan said. “In all reality, if we take out the religious context of this event, it's really a positive event and everybody can use that."
He said a lot of students who approach members of Hindu YUVA have the misconception that the event is only for people of South Asian descent, regardless of their religion. Mallikarjunan wants students to know anyone is welcome to celebrate Diwali Night.
"A lot of people think this event is just for Brown people, and it's not,” Mallikarjunan said. “It's for everybody to come and enjoy themselves, regardless of your skin tone of religious beliefs; it's really for you to just come and have a good time."