Hindu Students Association Celebrates Diwali Amid COVID-19 Guidelines

Maggie Aulman, Maroon-News Staff

The Hindu Student Association (HSA) celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with a service in the Colgate Memorial Chapel after a firework show on Saturday, Nov. 7. Diwali, the festival of lights, is an annual celebration about driving out darkness and bringing light into one’s life. The holiday will be celebrated globally on Nov. 14.

University Chaplain and Protestant Campus Minister Corey MacPherson helped to organize the event in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines of the University and New York State.

“We followed [New York State] guidelines closely and by working with Colgate’s Emergency Operation [Center] (EOC) we are able to provide religious services in person and have since quarantine ended … Everyone who comes in takes two wipes: one to wipe down where you’re going to be sitting and one to wipe down after…  And then every other pew has a sticker that says ‘please sit here’ so instead of blocking off where you can sit we thought it would be easier to mark off where you can sit,” MacPherson said.

MacPherson said that although Diwali tended to draw a large number of attendees from both the Colgate and greater Hamilton communities in past years, COVID-19 guidelines restricted gathering size.

“At the beginning of the semester, our office and the EOC went around and measured 6 foot distancing for all stickers. The religious state guideline says we can be at 33% capacity. We were excited because we thought we could have more people but, by the time we measured out the six feet social distancing, we figured out we can only seat 115 people. That’s why for Diwali, where we would normally have 200-300, we had to limit it to 100 [people],” MacPherson said.

Despite the challenges that COVID-19 poses, HSA President senior Vedika Almal believes the event was successful.

“I think it went really well and a lot of people showed up,” Almal said. “Getting permission for the priest to come on campus or for the fireworks to go off, it was just a lot more permissions than usual but I think that went off really smoothly all thanks to the chaplains’ office … We started planning a little more in advance than usual just because we had to get these permissions.”

The fireworks, a meal catered by the Royal Indian Grill (RIG) and a service led by a visiting Hindu priest were organized by the Chaplain’s Office and HSA to help to maintain the traditions that define a standard celebration of Diwali at Colgate, according to MacPherson.

“[The priest] was not required [to] but strongly encouraged to do a test before coming to campus. There are two religious leaders who come to campus just a couple times a semester,” MacPherson said. “Before the service, [the Chaplain’s Office and HSA figured] out all the details so that Hindu students can participate.”

Senior Anna Brown, who attended the celebration, commended the planning of the Chaplain’s Office and HSA for the event.

“Diwali was beautiful — everything from the lights to the fireworks to the food. The HSA and the chaplaincy staff worked really hard in making sure the event went smoothly, so it was really great to have such an amazing turnout of students. It was beautiful to see so many Colgate students come together to celebrate and learn about Diwali,”  Brown said.