Event brings hundreds to Green to celebrate Diwali

by Maria Brenes | 10/26/14 6:14pm

After the candle lighting and sparklers on the Green, attendees ate dinner together.
Source: Katelyn Jones

As the Baker bells chimed Om Jai Jagdish Hare, a Hindu devotional song, more than 500 students and community members gathered on the Green Saturday evening with lit candles and sparklers to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

Shanti, a Hindu organization at Dartmouth, organizes the festival every year. This year’s festival consisted of three parts: a prayer ritual at Rollins Chapel, candle lighting and sparklers on the Green and a dinner in Alumni Hall. Shanti spends about $6,000 on the event, of which about $4,500 is contributed by community members and the rest by various organizations on campus.

Aarathi Prasad GR’15 , a member of Shanti’s board who organized the event, said the festival shows the victory of light over darkness and brings together the moderately large community of Hindus in Hanover.

She said that since her first year at Dartmouth four years ago, she has seen the festival’s popularity grow. While the dinner and entertainment part of the evening was once held in the Collis student center, this year it had to be moved to Alumni Hall when attendance increased.

Saturday’s celebration also saw more people wanting to perform, with event organizers hearing from interested performers shortly before the event. Shanti had to narrow the show — which included Bollywood and traditional dancing, as well as singing — down to 14 performances.

Prasad said that Shanti began planning the event in the summer. Planning involves counting the candles left over from past years, buying candles and sparklers, advertising the event, setting a list of performances and arranging the dinner.

Tuck professor Praveen Kopalle, a Shanti member, said he bought 750 sparklers for the lighting ceremony. He also said that several members of the community help prepare the dinner, which must feed a total of 700 people.

The most effective method of advertising the event is through Facebook, but Shanti also sends mass campus emails, Prasad said.

Michelle Martinez ’17 said that she did not know about the event beforehand, but was attracted by the beauty of the candles on the Green.

“This is not a part of my culture, but I think it is a good way to let other people know of other cultural customs and other beliefs that people have on campus,” she said.

Ashish Sharma TU’16 and Rajeev Doddaballapur TU’16, said they were surprised at the turnout from the Hindu community.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center pharmacist Meenakshi Shelat said the event brings the Hindu community together.

“I think the best part about Shanti is that they celebrate every festival from India, not only Diwali, even small festivals, they take the initiative at least to celebrate it and it brings everybody together,” she said.

Shaun Sengupta ’17 said the festival reminded him of celebrating Diwali with friends and family back home.