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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Shanti celebrates Diwali on Green

This year’s festivities included the Hindu worship ritual Puja, a candle-lighting ceremony on the Green and Hindu performances in the Alumni Hall.

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On Oct. 31, Dartmouth celebrated Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. The College’s Hindu student organization, Shanti, marked the occasion by holding Puja, a traditional Hindu ritual, lighting candles and sparklers on the Green, hosting Hindu performances in Alumni Hall and concluding the night with meals for participants who attended the celebrations.

The festivities began with Puja, in which students and members of the community gathered in front of a shrine in Wheeler Tent. Because of concerns about COVID-19, this is the second year in a row that the event did not take place in Rollins Chapel, according to Sucharita Jayanti ’14, who led the lights ceremony. As people entered the tent, removed their shoes and applied turmeric to their foreheads, participants were invited to sing a series of Carnatic hymns.

During Puja, Tishya Srivastava Th’23 said that Diwali signifies the journey from darkness to light. Traditionally celebrated on New Moon Day of the darkest month of the year, Diwali commemorates two primary events, according to Srivastava. One of these events was Rama — the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu — killing Ravana, a ten-headed demon whose heads represented ten major negative emotions that humans carry. Diwali also celebrates Satyabhama — the wife of the god Krishna — killing the demon king Narakasura. Both events highlight the triumph of good over evil, Srivastava said.

After a series of prayers, the ceremony moved to the Green, where Jayanti said that Diwali is held at this time of the year when “it is dark, cold, depressing, when it feels like the world is at its worst.” 

“We want to be able to overcome that, to light a candle, a lamp, and ultimately that same light of enlightenment within us so that we are able to see … the divinity of ourselves and the world around us,” Jayanti said.

College President Phil Hanlon opened the ceremony by lighting the first candle, which was passed around until students, faculty and community members had all lit their own candles, sparklers and lamps. The only complication, Jayanti explained, was the rainy weather; however, Shanti members obtained canopies prior to the event, which they placed on the Green to shield the candles from inclement weather.

Shanti member Suraj Srivats ’22 wrote in an emailed statement that due to rainy weather, the candle lighting was limited to the middle of the Green.

“I was personally very excited to see the community come together despite the hardships that have separated us the past year and a half,” Srivats wrote. “The amount of help we received from the community, members of Shanti and new faces deserves much credit.”

After the lighting ceremony, participants moved to Alumni Hall, where students and community members, as well as the student dance group Raaz, performed various arts programs. Student performers included Srishti Chaudhary Th’22, Archita Harathi ’22, Aksheta Kanuganti ’24, Sreekar Kasturi ’24, Sharanya Sarkar GR’25 and  Srivats. Members of the community then turned to the sides of Alumni Hall, where they ate traditional Indian food made by community members before concluding the evening’s celebrations.

Despite this being her first Diwali away from her family, Nitya Agarwala ’25 said that she still felt the essence of family and friendship during the event. 

Jayanti said that she was excited to see “awareness and education on campus and in the community” for Hindu culture. 

“Over the years, it’s been really nice to see the community learn what Diwali is about,” she said.