Diwali, the Hindu Competition of Lights, is a celebration of spiritual variety on campus

UPDATED: Nov. 8, 2018 at 3:30 p.m.

Tula Goenka sat in her mother and father’ dwelling in India, lighting miniature lamps alongside her two younger kids in fall 2003. The home was spotless, scrubbed clear as a part of their annual fall cleansing. The candy fragrances of cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg wafted via the air as her household ready the night’s festive sweets. Past the flickering lamps, firecrackers might be seen illuminating the night time sky, signifying that Diwali — the Hindu Competition of Lights — was effectively underway.

“It’s like Christmas,” stated Goenka, a professor of tv, radio and movie in Newhouse. “You go into the shops, you go into the streets, and all people is celebrating it.”

For Hindus, Diwali is a celebration commemorating the ability of sunshine overcoming darkness, generally known as “the pageant of lights.” The identify “Diwali” derives from the Sanskrit phrase “dīpāvali,” translating to “row or sequence of lights.” The pageant is well known each autumn following the top of the summer season harvest and corresponds with the darkest night time of the Hindu lunisolar calendar on the brand new moon.


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This weekend, members of Syracuse College’s South Asian College students Affiliation will host a weekend celebration of the autumn pageant, hoping to shed new gentle on the sweetness and variety on one in all Hinduism’s most sacred holidays.

Included on this yr’s celebration is the Gentle Up the Orange Grove occasion on Thursday, sponsored by Hendricks Chapel, the South Asia Heart within the Maxwell Faculty and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Artwork and Music Histories division. Romita Ray, an affiliate professor of artwork historical past and chair of the division of artwork and music histories, started the primary Gentle Up the Orange Grove in 2015. Through the occasion, college students and college will gentle 1700 luminaries on the quad.

On Saturday, SASA will host their Competition of Lights Celebration at 8:30 p.m. in Goldstein Auditorium. The occasion prices $7 and is open to the general public.

Simply because the spiritual and cultural practices of India are diverse, the pageant’s spiritual significance is as effectively. Not each South Asian particular person is Hindu; some are Buddhist, whereas others are Jains, Sikhs, Christian or Muslim. Completely different areas in India rejoice the vacation on totally different dates and have totally different noticed traditions.

Some Hindus affiliate Diwali with the pageant of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Others correlate the celebration to the Hindu epic “Ramayana,” viewing Diwali as a marking of Rama’s military of excellent defeating the demon king Ravana’s military of evil.

However even those that aren’t lively practitioners nonetheless discover consolation within the nostalgia of the vacation and its connection to their identification. For Hindu college students at SU, the pageant isn’t solely in regards to the prospects of wealth or an observance of sunshine overcoming darkness. It’s additionally a chance to brazenly follow their religion and share of their beliefs with those that might have by no means been uncovered to Hinduism earlier than.

“It’s primarily only a time to unfold pleasure, unfold happiness,” stated Prabhanjan Balakrishnan, the pinnacle of finance for SASA. In India, Balakrishnan stated the celebration begins early within the morning, with households going door-to-door to go to their neighbors and family members and wishing them a cheerful Diwali. The nights, he stated, are painted with sensible fireworks shows in backyards.

Balakrishnan stated SASA hopes to carry those self same traditions to SU’s campus, sharing their religion with those that is probably not practitioners. For his or her Diwali celebration on Saturday, the occasion will function conventional Bollywood music and dancing and naturally, Balakrishnan stated, loads of meals to go round.

“It’s not profitable with out meals,” he stated, laughing.

On condition that SU is a predominantly white campus, Balakrishnan stated he hopes Diwali may help promote conversations between non-Hindus in regards to the significance of spiritual variety on campus.

“I really feel like it will be a great publicity for them, not only for problems with cultural appropriation however simply to see that there’s extra to the world,” he stated. “Inside a faith, you pray however you can also have a great time. It’s extra about embracing the tradition, and folks get pleasure from that.”

Goenka echoed Balakrishnan’s sentiments. Having lived in the US for 34 years and serving as SASA’s college sponsor for practically 15 years, she stated the methods South Asians observe Diwali within the U.S. differ in its measurement and public recognition.

“It was my favourite vacation — it goes on for days, it’s not solely a at some point celebration. Every part in India is days lengthy,” she stated. “In America, that doesn’t actually occur. It’s a a lot smaller vacation for the individuals celebrating it. It’s not within the common consciousness.”

By offering festivals and occasions centered round Hindu tradition, Balakrishnan stated he hopes South Asian college students acknowledge that there’s a neighborhood for them at Syracuse.

However SASA doesn’t solely concentrate on the Indian scholar inhabitants at SU. The group embraces the cultures of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, amongst others. The frequent thread linking members isn’t their religion or their household origins, he stated — it comes right down to shedding the stereotypes they’ve been forged in and to be seen as equal members of the SU neighborhood.

“Most stereotypes are like, in case you don’t change into a physician, in case you don’t change into a lawyer, in case you don’t change into an engineer, you aren’t doing something along with your life,” he stated. “However there’s a lot extra to us than that.”

As SASA continues to develop in prominence on campus, Balakrishnan stated he hopes the group can carry visitor Hindu audio system and comedians to campus to reaffirm for college students that their identities are legitimate. Occasions like this weekend’s Diwali, he stated, proceed to advertise these open dialogues and, hopefully, shift views.

When Balakrishnan was 15, he spent Diwali within the Indian metropolis Mysore. At 4 a.m., his mom woke him up, saying the festivities had been about to start. Giving him a firework and a few matches, Balakrishnan journeyed out into the streets, setting off fireworks because the neighborhood got here to life.

“Finally, individuals simply begin exhibiting up, and it turns into like a avenue pageant,” he stated.

The solar started to rise over the horizon, casting sensible shades of purple and orange with specks of gold throughout the earth. A brand new day was dawning.

A brand new gentle had arrived.

CLARIFICATION: In a earlier model of this text, the connection between the Gentle Up the Orange Grove occasion and the South Asian College students Affiliation was unclear. 


Contact Kelsey: [email protected] | @writtenbykelsey

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