Students, Faculty Celebrate Diwali

Students, Faculty Celebrate Diwali

On Saturday, November 5, students and faculty of all eth­nicities, beliefs and religions went to the Hall of Presidents (HOP) to celebrate the festival of lights, Diwali (or Deepavali). The celebration was organized by the Hindu Student Association (HSA) and catered by Hamil­ton’s very own Royal India Grill. Guests were treated to a delicious cultural experience.

The turnout for the celebra­tion was enormous. Among the guests were President Jeffrey Herbst, Interim Vice President and Dean of the College Scott Brown and Associate Professor of History and Africana & Latin American Studies (ALST), Di­rector of ALST and Coordinator of Latin American Studies Pro­fessor Antonio Barrera. Although seating became limited, students did not let that keep them from celebrating, and sat in the win­dowsills to take part in the event.

While guests were enjoying an appetizer at their tables, a brief PowerPoint presentation by repre­sentatives from the HSA was given to explain the significance of Diwali and how it is celebrated in India and other parts of Asia.

The slideshow briefly told about practices held at home and presented stories told at this time, such as when Prince Rama defeated the evil King Ravana. After the introduc­tion, a Hindu priest led a brief puja, or religious ceremony, on a makeshift alter to pay homage to the three goddesses honored at this time: Laxmi, Parvathi and Saraswat. The pictures of them were placed on the alter, draped with ropes of flowers and surrounded by candles.

Although many of the Di­wali celebratory practices, such as the cleaning of the house and creating Rangoli (colorful designs made of powder) on the floors of the houses could not be duplicated, guests could see how one would pray to the three goddesses.

Three students demonstrated how one prays to the goddesses and filed the HOP with chants and bells to honor Hindu gods and ask them to remove all ob­stacles in the next year.

To add to the beauty of the event, many students donned their traditional ornate dress.

One highlight of the evening was during the dinner portion when guests could go up to the alter and have a red string tied on their wrists. The line remained long throughout din­ner as people patiently waited to be a part of the ceremony. When asked about the signifi­cance, the emcee said that the red string serves as mental and physical protection.

“I thought it was lots of fun. The food was delicious and the clothes were beautiful. It was re­ally interesting to learn a little more about Hindu traditions because I was not very familiar with them,” sophomore Gillian Moore said.

“I think there should have been more set up initially to fit everyone, but that is the only thing really,” sophomore Cristina Gutowski said.

The festivities did not end when the food ran out, though. At 8 p.m., all of Hamilton was treated to a fireworks display set off from the top of cam­pus. In cities that celebrate Diwali, the fireworks displays are highly anticipated. One student mentioned how as a child, he would be scolded for being too excited about the fireworks when he should have been praying.

As the fireworks lit up the crisp clear night, it was hard not to feel the unity that Diwali brings to a community.

Contact Morgan Giordano at [email protected].