Diwali event brings feeling of home to students celebrating

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Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Andrea Rojas.

The Indian Student Council’s e-board poses for a picture, West Haven, Oct. 28, 2022.

Andrea Rojas, Videography Editor

On Oct. 28, the Indian Student Council (ISC) hosted an event celebrating Diwali in conjunction with the Office of Graduate & International Student Life (OGISL) and SCOPE.

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals celebrated by Hindus and takes place

Students speak at the Diwali celebration, Oct. 28, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Andrea Rojas. )

during late October and early November. Diwali, also known as Deepavali, directly translates to “row of lights” in Sanskrit, and celebrates the triumph of light over dark, good over evil and blessings such as victory, freedom and enlightenment.

One of the most important aspects of Diwali is the gathering of friends and family to celebrate together, which is why it is considered a festival of family gatherings and celebrations. Diwali celebrations are not complete without good food, dancing, singing, exchanging gifts, burning firecrackers and lighting diya lamps, which are small candles used for decorative and worship purposes.

Real diya lamps could not be used, but battery-powered electric candles served the same purpose on the tables lining the David A. Beckerman Recreation Center. The purpose of the diya lamps are in no small part related to the religious story of the god Rama freeing the goddess Sita from the demon Ravana. They were then greeted with diyas upon their return, and the lamps took on the symbolic meaning of the triumph of light over dark. It is now common to not leave a single area of a house unlit during this celebration because of this, in addition to protecting the home against negative energies and evil spirits.

This background about the holiday celebration was covered in a brief presentation at the beginning of the event, meant to educate those who were unfamiliar with the holiday, its significance and traditions. ISC President Amna Jalali, a finance graduate student, emphasized that the event also served as an opportunity to share the culture with the campus community and those who are unfamiliar with the customs surrounding Diwali and Indian culture, which is extremely diverse in heritage, religion and tradition.

Before the event started, however, Jalali took a moment to acknowledge the heartbreaking news of multiple University of New Haven graduate students being injured in a car accident which resulted in two fatalities. Jalali, on behalf of the ISC, extended condolences to the families, friends and classmates of the students involved, and asked for two minutes of silence in their honor.

“Be safe, and take the necessary precautions for your safety because you are new to this country and are far away from your families,” Jalali said, addressing a crowd of predominantly international students.

After the somber acknowledgement, the event got underway, starting with a traditional singing performance that also served as a blessing. Music, dancing, photo opportunities and food followed.

Jalali made note of the work it took to put together such a big event, and commended the efforts of volunteers and co-sponsoring organizations to make it happen, being the first major Diwali celebration of its kind to happen on campus following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aishwarya Nyasargi, an environmental science graduate student, commented on how this kind of event was important to her. “I’ve been here for one and a half years, and this feels like being near home,” she said. “Having campus celebrate Diwali makes me feel very welcome.”