New years commence differently in various cultures. India's begins with Diwali, the festival of lights.

Knoxville community members recognized Diwali with an afternoon showcase of Indian culture. Organized by Manthan, the Indian Students' Association at UT, the festival of lights celebration incorporates traditional dance, music and food.

The lunar cycle regulates the occurrence of the five-day Hindu festival, and it usually falls between late October and early November. A new moon on the third day marks the actual date of Diwali, and this year it fell on Nov. 3.

Manthan hosted its event a week afterwards, but celebratory moods dominated the afternoon nevertheless. Hoots and hollers emanated from the audience during the multiple performances, and the cheers increased in volume during the fashion show and the Bollywood style dances.

Priyanki Sinha, one of the two announcers for the day, introduced the fashion show with the reminder that the 28 states in India each have their own subcultures marked by a difference in fashion decisions.

"Keep in mind, we love to dress up," Sinha added as the first couple displayed their Indian garbs.

While many of the clothing items were similar, such as the saris and dhotis, the details in cloth and the accessories indicated their different origins.

The first of two Bollywood dance exhibitions warranted the most audience response as the six students danced across the stage to modern hip-hop tunes.

Between the dance numbers and songs, the audience answered trivia questions about details of the Diwali festival.

UT's rendition of Diwali provided an outlet for Manthan member's talents, as well as an enhancement of the unity within the Indian community.

"This event on campus gives a sense of cohesion," said Niyanth Sridharan, a Ph.D. student, as he enjoyed the lunch of classic Indian foods. "We get to meet each other and make new friends. It really gives you a sense of being at home in India."

Manthan served basmati rice topped with chicken curry. Aloo-gobi, which is a combination of potatoes and cauliflower in a gravy-style sauce, and chana masala, a simple chickpea dish, were offered on the side. Savory Indian spices enhanced each of the entree options.

Gulab jamun, a cheese-based dessert, and mango lassi, a yogurt mango drink, tantalized sweet taste buds.

"Gulab jamun? It's dried milk that is formed into a ball and then deep-fried. Then they soak the dough balls in a sugar syrup," Sridharan explained. "They're actually very popular."

While Diwali symbolizes the beginning of a new year, it also marks a time of giving and gratitude.

Indian families decorate their houses with dias and candles to represent the "victory of light over dark."

"The scale of this festival is like Christmas in America. That's how important Diwali is in our country," Mohit Shakula, treasurer of Manthan said. "It's a pretty big deal."

Manthan hopes it can expand its cultural awareness to more members of the Knoxville community in future years.

"We partnered with the Cultural Programs Committee and the I-house to try and expand our reach to other nationalities," Shakula said.

The Diwali celebration exposes new participants to another culture while providing an event reminiscent of India.

"If you are in a different country, it reminds you of home," Sarvesy Iyer said. "It actually keeps the culture alive."