Colgate Celebrates Festival of Lights



Last Friday, over 200 students, faculty and community members were found at the Hall of Presidents engaged in a Hindu celebra­tion. Sponsored by the Hindu Student’s Association (HSA), this year’s Diwali Festival featured excellent food and a tra­ditional Hindu puja, which made for an interesting night.

Diwali is a festival that celebrates the victory of light over darkness, of good over evil. Diwali is celebrated on the last day of the last month of lunar calendar which is always a new moon night and lasts for the next five days. To emphasize the symbolic victory of light over dark­ness, numerous diya (clays lamps) are il­luminated throughout the night as a mas­sive fireworks display occurs. It is believed that these numerous lights mark the be­ginning of auspicious and prosperous times. At this yearly event, non-Hindu students joined the HSA in its celebration of this important festival.

HSA’s Diwali event kicked off at the Hall of Presidents with a presentation by the members of HSA on the significance of the festival and the mode of its celebra­tion. Diwali actually begins on Friday, November 5 and lasts un­til Tuesday, November 9, but HSA decided to hold the festivity in advance because of the coincidence with Family Weekend. A Hindu priest had been brought in from a temple at Syracuse to perform a Diwali puja. This involved performing a ritual to pray to Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, and to Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. The puja was followed by a ceremony where those who wished to do so could have a sacred thread tied around their wrist. This thread is meant to be a good-luck charm of sorts: it would bring to the wearer prosperity in the following year.

The puja ceremony was reflec­tive of the many Lakshmi pujas that occur extensively in India, Nepal and many other nations during Diwali. It gave many non-Hindu attendees a sample of what rituals in Hinduism looked like.

First-year Ian Dwyer said, “The puja was fascinating! I loved how the prayer was in song.”

Diwali occupies a significant place in Hindu mythology. Cele­brated extensively in over six coun­tries, the festival marks the return of Lord Rama to his kingdom, Ayodhya. Rama, Lord Vishnu’s incarnate, had been exiled by his father from Ayodhya at the request of Rama’s stepmother. During his 14 years of exile, Rama’s wife Sita was kidnapped by the demon Ra­vana; a battle occurred in which Ravana was slain. Rama then returned to Ayodhya where rows of lamps were lit in the streets to honor his return. To date, people celebrate Diwali by lighting numerous lamps to dispel the darkness and evil that lurks in their lives.

The puja ceremony was followed by a sumptuous banquet of Indian food. The night successfully brought together over 200 people who bonded over the Hindu culture and traditions and Indian food.