Many students across campus stopped to photograph and film a spirited and impressive firework display late Saturday evening. Unbeknownst to many of them, the fireworks were kicking off the celebration of Diwali hosted by the Hindu Student Association (HSA). From 6:30 to 8 p.m. on November 4, individuals gathered at the Hall of Presidents (HOP) to partake in a belated celebration of Diwali, an annual festival of lights observed in the Hindu religion.
The festival occurs in autumn each year, on the fifteenth day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar. Although Diwali technically occurred on October 19 this year, many students, faculty and families joined together for belated festivities. In most places in India, the event occurs for five days with the third day being the most important. Diwali celebrates the return of the exiled Prince Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after the prince defeated Ravana, a demon-king. Ultimately, the holiday honors the prevalence of light and righteousness over darkness.
After the firework display, representatives of HSA introduced the traditions, as well as one version of the origin story of Diwali. The information was complemented by images that were projected across the walls of the Hall of Presidents’ banquet hall that changed with each part of the tale. Since the event was inclusive and encouraged attendance of people from any religious or cultural background, having context for the celebration was appreciated by many attendees who previously knew little about the celebration. A Colgate aluma described her own experience of the event.
“I love events like this so I was excited to come. I thought it was great and I thought the fireworks were a lot of fun. It was really nice how they gave a background so it was very opening and encouraging to people who may not know [about the history and significance of Diwali]. While they shouldn’t really be expected to do that, I thought it was really nice. I thought the prayer was beautiful and it was a really warm and inviting environment,” Sarah Cummings ’15 said.
The hall and tables were decorated with candles and flowers and the entrance displayed a Rangoli, a colorful art where patterns are created on the floor using dry flour, candles, flower petals, colored sand and rice, meant to welcome guests into the space. After listening to the history of the event, a series of religious hymns blessing guests with wealth and success took place. During the hymns, those who wished joined in the saying of “om,” a sacred sound in Hinduism, while other attendees simply observed a moment of silence.
“It’s my first time seeing the prayer ceremony and I thought that was cool because we don’t really get to see that around here. It also reminded me of the Buddhist prayers. I’m from Korea so I’m culturally Buddhist. When I was younger I would go to Buddhist temples and hear the monks pray and it reminded me of that,” junior Seung-ah Yang, who attended the event last year, said.
Observers of Hinduism also had the opportunity to partake in Aarti, a ritual of worship involving praising a deity through hymns and offering candles or lamps as a sign of reverence. After students left the stage, they were welcome to serve themselves food catered by Royal India Grill. The array of food included naan bread, a mixed vegetable dish, paneer masala, chicken chilli and lamb curry as well as rice pudding for dessert, which seemed to go over well with guests who went back for third and fourth plates.
The rest of the night allowed students to talk to the attendees at their table while traditional music played in the background. Ultimately, the night allowed members of HSA to share the traditions and culture of Hinduism with fellow members of their community and interested students in the Colgate community alike.
Contact Lauren Hutton at [email protected]