Deepa Pokala

Students and volunteers particpate in Diwali, the festival of lights, at the Main Mall on Tuesday night. The festival consists of many traditions and is held every year. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Students celebrated Diwali, a Hindu cultural and religious tradition, with prayer, music and candles at a festival on the Main Mall Tuesday sponsored by the Hindu Students Association.

Deepa Pokala, math and pre-med junior and Diwali co-chair, said Diwali is associated with Hindu mythology of Lord Rama, a reincarnation of a Hindu god. Pokala said the celebration is in honor of Lord Rama returning home after defeating a demon, Ravana, that captures his wife and is a symbol of good defeating evil. The Hindu Students Association is an organization open to all students that holds weekly discussions centered on Hindu culture and celebrates Hindu traditions, including Diwali, on campus.

The celebration is also referred to as row of lights, the festival of lights and Hindu New Year. Because of the focus on light, the festival included candle-making and fireworks, as well as traditional Indian pastries and dances.

“During this time families will go and visit each other,” Pokala said. “Some people focus on food. Some people really stress lighting up their homes with giyas which are candles.”

Students participated in a havan, a prayer surrounding a fire as a symbol of light and a spiritual connection to the gods, while Hindu hymns called bhajans were played.

Students could also participate in other Diwali traditions including rangoli, or colored flour made into designs and symbols, normally placed outside homes on the ground to publicly show the family is celebrating Diwali. Abhijit Sreerama, association member and math and pre-med junior offered kumkum, powder placed on the forehead as to center the mind for prayer.

“It has a cultural meaning as well as a spiritual meaning,” Sreerama said. “The forehead is the center of thought, and this is put on both men and women during this time, and when you pray, it centers your being.

Public health junior Navya Singirikonda helped students make toran, which is a cultural ornament that is placed across the top of a door with sheer cloth, fruits and leaves.

“There’s a lot of significance to the entrance of the home,” Singirikonda said. “It’s always decorated with fruits and leaves. The decoration welcomes anyone that’s coming to the house and usually in India, the doors are always open. [The toran] is always on there, but you decorate it more for festivals like Diwali and replace the leaves.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as: Diwali lights up sky to celebrate tradition

Daniel Monroy, a computer science freshman, is the creator of a facebook group UTexas Memes that garnered over 4,000 ‘likes’ less than a day after he first made the group. Monroy decided to keep his role in the group secret until yesterday.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

UTexas Memes Facebook page creator Daniel Monroy said he was stunned to get an email from a high school student stating: “Thanks for creating the page, I’m going to UT instead of Rice because of it.” While Monroy, a computer science freshman, said he is not sure if the message is true, he is still surprised by the impact the UTexas Memes page has had.

“That’s a tough decision to make based on memes,” Monroy said. “I don’t really know if I would base my college career decision based on a memes page.”

The Facebook UTexas Memes page, which hit over 4,000 “likes” less than 24 hours after its creation, is still rising in popularity. The page rose to over 14,000 likes as of Monday night.

UTexas Memes is a Facebook page devoted to user-generated “memes” that are related to the University. Memes are types of viral, usually somewhat comedic ideas that pass between Internet users. The most common and popular type of meme are macros; usually generic photos accompanied with lines of text at the top and bottom of the photo, which together make a comedic comment about life or culture.

Monroy, who previously had not given his name in interviews, decided to go public Monday.

“Basically, I just wanted to see what my friends’ reactions were,” Monroy said. “It wasn’t because I wanted everyone to know.”

Monroy started the page the morning of Feb. 5. Before midnight, less than 24 hours later, the page had hit over 3,000 likes. Monroy said he did not expect the sharp rise in popularity.

“I thought it was going to reach 1,000 by Friday,” Monroy said. “It started growing really fast. I didn’t even know what to do at first.”

On Feb. 6, the page had 4,449 likes at eight in the morning and gained several hundred likes every hour.

“I’m still overwhelmed over how fast it has grown,” Monroy said. “I just really think that it’s good people are enjoying the page and that was basically my goal at first.”

During this initial time of creation and growth, math sophomore Deepa Pokala said people sharing memes from the page took over her Facebook news feed.

“First I was annoyed, but then I warmed up to the idea,” Pokala said.

Nutrition senior Pooja Mehta said she found the page enjoyable from the start.

“They’re really hilarious,” Mehta said. “They are a nice study break, but of course some people don’t know how to make them.”

Like the email from the high school student who picked UT over Rice, Monroy said the page has surprised him again and again. He created an email address for the page after the first day, when he realized it would not be possible to police inappropriate memes by himself. He said people have already sent him links to memes that were offensive and he took them down.

Monroy was also surprised that several companies have offered sponsorships in exchange for advertisements on the page. Companies that Monroy would not identify have offered money in exchange for links or memes related to their company, but Monroy does not think he will accept any of the sponsorships.

“I don’t feel like I need sponsorships and I wasn’t really looking to get money out of the page. It was just for enjoying it,” Monroy said.

Monroy said he owed the page’s popularity to the users who posted memes.

“The page is really made out of the people that are in it,” he said. “I just created the page and that’s all. It just happened to grow.”

However, Monroy said he does feel some satisfaction in creating the page.

“To feel like you’ve made something that everyone is enjoying and having fun with is really good,” Monroy said.

Since UTexas Memes was created, other universities have also had their own memes page spin-offs, including Baylor Memes, OU Memes, Texas Tech Memes and Northwestern Memes.

“It’s good they have that,” Monroy said. “If it grows, that’s pretty cool. Even though they are our rival schools, it is still something their students can relate to and have fun with.”

Pokala said that while the page is enjoyable, it would not stay around forever.

“Like everything, I think it will hype up a lot, but it will simmer down a little,” Pokala said.

Printed on, Tuesday February 14, 2012 as: Memes page creator explains popularity