This year, the five-day Hindu festival of Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights”, fell on October 21 and was observed by millions. Diwali celebrates light triumphing over darkness, good over evil, in an array of South Asian traditions including Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism.
The peak of the Diwali festivities falls on the third day of the festival. On this day, people often wear new clothing, spend time with family and friends, and exchange gifts or sweets. The triumph of light over darkness is displayed through candles, oil lamps (diyas), and fireworks that light up the night. These lights are often thought to greet Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and wealth and to express the well-being of those on Earth.
Diwali marks the start of the New Year on the Hindu calendar and all five days are a time of great happiness and gratitude. A large percentage of the global community celebrates Diwali, making the festivities and lights prominent throughout South Asia and many other parts of the world.
Considering that Diwali is a public holiday in many countries and arguably the most extravagant and important festival in India, it is shocking how little the dominant culture in the United States knows about the festival (outside of that one episode of the Office). Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, making Diwali one of the most important holidays for many people, including a large portion of the South Asian population at the 5C’s. In order to provide these students with a sense of home and to augment the cultural awareness on campus, the Claremont Hindu Society is hosting a Diwali celebration on November 9th at 5 pm in Edmunds ballroom.
For the Hindu Society’s Diwali event last year, Edmunds ballroom was adorned with lights that cascaded across the ceiling and vibrantly colored decorations that attracted over 400 people. This included a variety of guests from staff members to students who were unfamiliar with Diwali previous to the event. In fact, most guests were not of South Asian descent but came to benefit from the unique cultural experience. President of the Claremont Hindu Society, Sanjana Rao CM ’15, says her favorite part of hosting Diwali is “meeting all the wonderful people from all ethnicities and religious backgrounds who come and celebrate Diwali.” This event gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy the global community on campus and learn about one of the world’s largest and oldest cultures.
Students are given the opportunity to learn about Hindu traditions and philosophy through a prayer session that has been translated into English and takes places at the beginning of the evening. Then, the event showcases a variety of impressive student talent, including a performance from the Claremont Bollywood Dance Company from 5:30 to 6, followed by the opportunity to enjoy an authentic (and free!) Indian dinner. The evening ends with guests dancing to Bollywood music.
The popularity of this event has increased from year to year at a rate that has exceeded expectations and demonstrated the power of a shared culture. Rao goes on to say “The whole Claremont Hindu Society board loves to bring people together to give thanks for our wonderful community, celebrate the talent amongst us, and enjoy the present moment!” Whether you have a profound curiosity of other cultures or just a desire for an authentic, dining-hall-free meal, all students are encouraged to attend this event regardless of religious or cultural background.