Diwali celebration at UC Office of the President

Pratima Reddy lighting the Diya lamps

By Sujit Thapa and Laurel Skurko. The Asian Pacific Islander Staff Association (APISA) celebrated Diwali, “the festival of lights” at UC Office of the President with tradition and style on Tuesday, November 7, in Oakland, California. This celebration marked a historic moment of the largest Diwali event at the UC Office of the President. More than 110 staff attended the event and enjoyed celebrating Diwali by incorporating important traditions of this festival, including vibrant colors, decorations, and lights. The event was also enhanced with henna hand-painting, traditional South Asian treats and tea, along with classical and modern music and vibrant music videos, Bollywood-style. The cultural corner and brief talk on Diwali provided the background on the festival and showcased its significance for Hindus across the globe. The highlight of the event was the traditional lighting of the Diya lamps by APISA executive sponsor and vice president of Graduate, Undergraduate and Equity Affairs (GUEA), Yvette Gullatt, and ITS executive directors Pratima Reddy and Shirley Bittlingmeier, as it marked the celebration of this important South Asian festival at UC Office of the President. 

APISA would like to thank our Executive Sponsors, Yvette Gullatt, and Nathan Brostrom, chief investment officer, as well as the Diwali planning team for their support to make this event highly successful. If your UC department celebrated Diwali, please send in photos to ucitblog@ucop.edu. The UC Tech News team will also post on the UC IT Blog News LinkedIn group.

A person lighting a candle

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[The traditional lighting of the Diya lamps with Yvette Gullatt]

A group of women sitting at a table

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[Henna artist Fathima Jabeen]

[Attendees sharing a henna tattoo] 

[Attendees getting their photo taken at the event]

A person standing in front of a group of people

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[Sujit Thapa sharing the history of Diwali]        

A group of people posing for a photo

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[Happy Diwali to all and thanks to all the participants!]           

Diwali planning committee

Sushant Prasad, Alex Santos, Sujit Thapa, Tony Yang, Pratima Reddy, Laurel Skurko, Shirley Bittlingmeier, Barbara Hui, Melvin Tangonan, Anisha Ashraf, Mey Saechao, Arun Duggal, Pikka Sodhi, Veeresham Merugu, Vijayalakshmi Kota, Anvita Seth Kapoor, May Saechao, Anna Chan and Brenda Perez.

Background on Diwali

The name Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word Dipawali, which means “rows of light.” Diwali is one of the major religious festivals for Hindus across the globe* and marks the victory of good over evil. Hindu families celebrate this festival by decorating their homes with candles and colorful lights and gathering with family members and friends to enjoy delicious food and time together.

This year, the Diwali celebration falls on November 12. Traditionally, the date falls on the darkest day of the lunar month, which is the day of the new/no moon. This occurs between October and November each year. It is a five-day festival, with the primary celebration (and new/no moon and darkest day) falling on the 3rd day in most places in South Asia. This year, this 3rd day and the new moon falls on Sunday, November 12, 2023.

Families celebrate this festival by decorating their homes with candles and colorful lights and Rangoli, colored patterns drawn on the floor or table – an art form that originates in India. They also sing and dance, as well as gather with family members and friends to enjoy delicious food and time together. Adults also enjoy card and dice games while kids light the sky with fireworks. 

  1. The third day after Diwali begins is called Lakshmi Puja. This is considered the most auspicious day in Diwali, where the goddess of fortune and wealth, “Lakshmi” is worshiped at home to bless the home with good fortune and abundance. This year, this falls on November 12, 2023.
  2. On the fifth or final day, in North India and Nepal, people celebrate Bhai Dhooj/Bhai Tika (brother puja) to mark the bonding between sisters and brothers and take a moment to share blessings and gifts with each other. This year, this falls on November 14, 2023.

Diwali is celebrated across South Asia. According to Wikipedia, South Asia includes about 90% of the world’s Hindu population, and includes the following countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka

Event Menu

  1. Samosas
  2. Pakoras
  3. Chana Dal
  4. Barfi (coconut sweets)
  5. Kaju Katli (cashew diamonds)
  6. Cardamom-almond cake
  7. Chai tea

Playlist during the November 7th celebration

Light background music:

Dance/Party songs:

1.     Punjabi song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yThYwOixjYg

2.     Sauda khara https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYEqeUr-158

3.     Jai Jai Shiv Shankar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGneAab3e88

4.     Thumka https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgpFBdapobY

5.     Deewangi Deewang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74OyXALqv1Y

6.     Say Shava Shava https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTARlM0pCP4

7.     Bole Chudiyan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBvg3WeqP1U

8.     Raavan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxB-ki-qE64

9.     RRR – Naacho Naacho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAzlWScHTc4

10.  Daler Mehndi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6Ze5Hqa1wA

11.  Ho Jayegi Balle Balle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_kZclGAjTk12.  “Kudiyan Sehar Diyan”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMELhISOv-s

About Asian Pacific Islander Staff Association (APISA) at UC Office of the President

APISA Mission Statement

APISA promotes and enhances the well-being of Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander staff, faculty and students through active participation and representation at UC Office of the President and the community at large. APISA sponsors activities that foster inclusivity, understanding and community building about Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.

APISA History

APISA Started in 2013 as an affinity group and held UC Office of the President events to promote camaraderie and better understanding of Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders. As an Employee Resource Group (ERG), APISA is becoming a greater advocate for UC employees to promote its values and goals.

APISA Contacts

  1. Tony Yang, vice-chair
  2. Sujit Thapa, vice-chair
  3. Barbara Hui, treasurer
  4. Melvin Tangonan, secretary

Learn more about APISA at UC Office of the President here


Barfi or burfi is a milk-based sweet from the Indian subcontinent with a fudge-like consistency. Its name comes from the Persian and Urdu words (barf) for snow. Barfi is consumed throughout India and Pakistan and is especially popular in North India. It is often served at celebrations and religious festivals such as Diwali and Holi [Reference: Wikipedia]

Diya – A traditional Diya (dee·uh) is a clay oil lamp native to India. A diya is lit during celebrations such as Diwali [Reference: Diyacandleco.com]

Mehndi – Called mendhika in Sanskrit, maruthani in Tamil, mehndi in Hindi, and henna from the Arabic al-hinna, the flowering shrub Lawsonia inermis has multiple uses, many of them involving hair. India’s indigenous medical traditions like ayurveda and Siddha, which differ on many points, agree that henna is good for hair [Reference – Google]

Rangoli – The ancient sand art of India

Sangeet – The Sanskrit term Sangeet refers to a genre of Indian music that includes vocal, instrumental, and musical forms that are used for dance [Reference: Different Genres Of Music And Dance Popular In India | Ben Vaughn]

[Cover photo caption: Pratima Reddy, with Shirley Bittlingmeier, lighting the Diya lamps]


Sujit Thapa
Policy and Program Analyst
UC Office of the President

Laurel Skurko, Marketing & Communications, IT Services, UC Office of the President
Laurel Skurko
Marketing & Communications
UC Office of the President