As the holiday season approaches, occasions such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving are at the forefront of people’s minds.
On Tuesday night a different occasion took center stage.
Lights, colors and culture illuminated the University Center, as the Hindu Students Council (HSC) celebrated Diwali, a major Indian festival.
Beneath the mystique of the night sky, decorated with colorful garments called saris and lit by lamps known as diyas, the University Center gave off the aura of a traditional Diwali setting in India.
“It was really cold outside,” said Sumit Mehta, HSC’s freshmen representative. “Despite that, though, I think holding the puja outside made it more memorable, and I liked celebrating Diwali in a more traditional way.”
Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” is a religious holiday that is celebrated with great fervor throughout India and many other parts of the world. It is an occasion where people wear their new clothes, prepare Indian delicacies and offer prayers.
“The diyas are a representation of striving for inner enlightenment, for on this day, just as businesses create a balance sheet of annual happenings, Diwali inspires us to create a balance sheet of this yesteryear of our lives,” said senior Janki Amin, the vice president of HSC. “It inspires us to remove our envies, enmities, obsessions and bitterness and, in the balance, maintain our love, faith and enthusiasm in life.”
As a way of illustrating Indian culture and rituals to the student community, the Hindu Students Council celebrated Diwali in the form of a Diwali puja.
“A puja is ritual where people come together to offer devotion,” said senior Vikalp Patel, the treasurer of HSC. “It gives us an opportunity to get closer to family and friends.”
Open to all UM students, the event played host to over 70 students from various cultural backgrounds.
“I didn’t know much about Diwali or the event,” junior Chris Johnson said. “Some of my friends told me about it, and they said it was open to everyone, so I went. It was nice experiencing the Hindu culture, as they did a good job setting the ambiance with the lamps.”
The HSC diwali puja is an informal event that has taken place at the university for the past few years. Students are encouraged to come and participate in whatever manner they feel comfortable, whether it be offering hymns, offering various prayers or simply sitting and singing along or listening.
“I was a little scared to come out because I’m not Indian,” sophomore Kimberly Adams said. “But, when I got out there, it was warm and inviting. There were packets explaining things, which allowed everyone to get involved.”
The puja kicked off with an explanation of Diwali and the significance behind the festival. Students then offered hymns and prayers, before performing aarti (a ritual of offering diyas and prayers before the idol of God) and proceeding to a warm Indian meal.
“I thought it was a very successful event,” senior Monica Chatwal said. “In comparison to past years, this was the best puja I have been to. There were more people who attended this year, and more people got involved. It was nice.”