Students celebrate Diwali at University of New Haven

The triumph of good over evil; a new year celebration. Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated across the world in multiple religions, with the celebration date changing yearly, sometime between October and November. This year, Diwali is celebrated from Nov. 2-6, with the main celebration being on Nov. 4.

Diwali comes from the Sanskrit word “deepavali,” which means “rows of lighted lamps.” People celebrate by lighting oil lamps and placing them around their homes, and pray for knowledge, peace and health.

During the celebration, families also gather to have feasts, lights and lamps are lit on streets and in houses, children receive treats, fireworks are set off and various historical milestones are celebrated within religions. For example, according to BBC, “Hindus celebrate the return of deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya after their 14-year exile. They also celebrate the day Mother Goddess Durga destroyed a demon called Mahisha.”

On Nov. 5, approximately 150 students and faculty members filled the Beckerman Recreation Center to celebrate. The Indian Student Council (ISC) and the Office of Graduate and International Student Life hosted the event.

With solo and group dancers and singers, ice breaker activities, food and more, there were hours of activities to spectate and participate in.

The walls were decorated with banners reading “Happy Diwali” and hanging roses. There was also a table with sand art and candles that students created.

The night started with an introduction from the president and vice president of the ISC, masters of data analytics student Shashwat Jain and masters of electrical engineering student Ruthu Dinesh. They explained a brief history of Diwali and welcomed everyone to the event.

Dinesh said the ISC worked on planning the celebration for about a month and the toughest part was getting participants. Since many individuals are from different majors, they had to plan specific times for the performers to rehearse.

“I am really enjoying how students are getting together and they are celebrating,” said Amna Jalali, a masters of finance student.

“It doesn’t feel like that I’m not in India,” she said. “The diversity in the University of New Haven, it’s so immense. There are so many Indian students where I can talk to them and it doesn’t feel like I’m in the United States.”

“Diwali is very close to me because it is one of the biggest festivals celebrated back in India and I’m from India,” said Dinesh. “We consider Diwali as the new year, so everything and anything we do, we start that from this day.”

Steve Macchiarolo, director of graduate and international student life, said this event shows the inclusivity on campus. “We try to recognize all of our cultures and heritages of all of our students.”

“I know this is a very important event for our students, especially our Indian students, so we want to make sure that they feel supported,” he said. “And I know that they’re very excited to kind of share their culture with the rest of the university community.

Jain said that ISC collaborates with Indian students and hosts events “to make them feel like family.”

He also said that ISC has been hosting this event for years. However, due to COVID-19, they were unable to host it last year. They were able to hold it this year, but limited space in the recreation center kept the capacity to 150 spectators and participants in order to be compliant with COVID-19 protocol.

“It’s very hard for us [international students] coming to a new country, leaving our parents back there, and not celebrating Indian events and festivals,” Jain said. “So, we really feel very homesick, and that’s why we celebrate Diwali here on campus. It’s fun.”

You can rewatch the Diwali celebration on the @unewhave_ogisl Instagram post from Nov. 6.