The Festival of Lights, known to many students as a Jewish holiday, is also recognized by the Hindu Student Council as Diwali.
Most Friday nights one won’t find any students in a classroom, but Diwali is one exception. What would normally be empty and dead-quiet, the hallway outside of Hellems 211 was filled with chatter and even the aroma of spinach curry as the Hindu Student Council hosted a celebration of the second night of Diwali. Shoes and sandals piled high outside the door, while the interior was filled with people mingling barefoot and even some with mismatched argyle socks.
Receiving a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in August, Gopi Krishnan is now a member of the Hindu Student Council. Krishnan said there is more of a cultural significance rather than a religious one during the holiday.
“We have this mythical story where the evil King Ravan abducts [the god] Ram’s wife Sita, while he is gone doing errands of some sort,” Krishnan said. “Ram eventually defeats the evil king, saves his wife and emerges from the forest and returns to the city. The streets were lit with lights to welcome the couple back.”
Desks covered in candles lined the room perimeter, which provided dim lighting. Several of the women adorned traditional Indian saris while most of the crowd dressed more casual in jeans and Polos.
Krishnan said the celebration is significant to people of all denominations.
“We’re getting people together, building a sense of community,” Krishnan said. “People come to this to have fun, no matter what denominations they are. Diwali is celebrated differently here than in India—back home we would celebrate with lots of fireworks and it’s known for that.”
The event brought a very diverse crowd—undergraduate and graduate students, parents, children and even out-of-town friends.
Dheeraj Sunkavalli, a masters candidate in business administration, detailed the significance of lighting candles during Diwali.
“I could go on and on about the entire history of Diwali,” Sunkavalli said. “The light from the candles signifies victory of good over evil. The light also signifies victory over the evil in oneself.”
When the crowd of 50 some people settled after 40 minutes, three brief videos were shown on the history of Diwali. They included a speech by President Obama wishing those who celebrate Diwali a joyous holiday, after which the entire room joined in unison to sing a prayer known as the “Aarthi song.”
Hansa Singh, 21-year-old out-of-town guest explained Diwali as having several meanings and purposes.
“It’s basically a celebration for one of our gods returning home after 14 years,” Singh said. “Some would say it is our version of the New Year. And some people celebrate the goddess of luck, Lakshmi.”
Not everyone attending the event had celebrated Diwali before. There were many first-timers who said they came to see what the experience entailed, such as recent aerospace engineering graduate Nick Little.
Little, 22, was one of many people totally unfamiliar with Diwali before the event.
“I knew nothing about Diwali before tonight; I was invited by a friend and just came,” Little said. “It’s been really educational and I’ve learned a lot about the Hindu culture. Not to mention the food is great—it’s different, spicy and delicious.”
Contact CU Independent staff writer Adrian Kun at Adrian.firstname.lastname@example.org.