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The Dartmouth
February 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students gather to celebrate Diwali on campus

The Hindu Festival of Lights was honored through a community dinner, arts performances and a display of candles on the Green.

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On Oct. 22, Shanti, Dartmouth’s Hindu student organization, hosted a celebration of Diwali — known as the Festival of Lights — on campus. Additional sponsors for the event included the Upper Valley Indian Community, Thayer School of Engineering and the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, according to an email sent to campus on Oct. 19.

Celebrations were held in Alumni Hall and included a puja — a Hindu worship ceremony — as well as a program featuring plays and student performances and a dinner with South Asian cuisine. South Asian student dance group Raaz was the last to perform before the community dinner. In the evening, hundreds of ceremonial candles — known as diyas — were lit and arranged on the Green.  

According to Sreekar Kasturi ’24, the annual Diwali holiday represents the celebration of truth and virtue in society. 

“Diwali talks about the triumph of good over evil [and] light over darkness,” Kasturi said. “It’s very symbolic that the festival focuses on lighting lights to remove darkness from the entire area. I think it was really cool to see the Green completely lit up and not dark at any given time.” 

The celebrations began with a puja, a traditional worship ritual in Hinduism which offers homage and prayer to one or more deities. Namitha Alluri ’25, who attended the Diwali festivities, said that puja is done to “welcome the new year with good thoughts and good prayers.” 

According to Alluri, Diwali also involves praying to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, happiness and prosperity, at the beginning of the new year. Alluri added that there is also a puja done to honor Rama, the god of virtue and chivalry. 

Computer science professor Prasad Jayanti, the faculty advisor for Shanti, said that the puja program was led by two emcees who explained various elements of the ceremony.

In addition to performing with Raaz, Alluri also said that she helped with placing the candles on the Green, alongside other students and community members from the Upper Valley.

Kasturi said that the symbolic lighting of the lamps signifies the removal of darkness from one’s life.

Jayanti, the faculty advisor for Shanti, said that lining up diya candles on the Green is done in “multiple stages.” 

Jayanti said that he is most proud of how Diwali brings the community together every year. 

“When you see the happiness on the faces of hundreds of people...as they watch the cultural performance, or as they eat the food, and as they come to whatever it is that appeals to them, it’s wonderful,” Jayanti said. “That has always been the inspiration this year and every year.”

Alluri also discussed feeling supported by South Asian and Hindu communities on campus.

“Dartmouth is a predominantly white institution and sometimes I get intimidated by that, but just knowing that being South Asian or being Hindu is always welcome is good to know,” Alluri said. “If I want to be connected to my roots or have conversations, there’s always a community that I know I can go to.” 

Alysha Summerville ’26 grew up celebrating Diwali with her family, and said that celebrating Diwali at Dartmouth reminds her of a family away from home. 

“I was really sad leading up to today because I didn’t think I would be able to celebrate with anybody,” Summerville said. “And it just is a reminder that we have family here that celebrate together and it reminds us of our families back home and make sure we’re not alone on this day. That means so much to us.”