Emily Diamond ‘20
On Sunday, Nov. 13, over 100 students and community members gathered inside McKenna Auditorium to celebrate Diwali, a Hindu holiday widely commemorated throughout India, South Asia, and the world. The holiday, which coincides with the Hindu New Year, represents the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.
The celebration in McKenna Auditorium included a prayer session, a traditional Indian dinner, a henna/mendhi table, performances from several groups, and open dancing.
Before praying, students of the Hindu Society led an informative session regarding the history and traditions of Diwali. Students explained that Diwali lasts five days. The first day is known as Dhan Tera, and people worship to Dhanvantari Trayodashi, the teacher of physicians; the second is Naraka Chaturdashi, and is a day to abolish laziness and evil; the third is Deepavali, which translates to Diwali and marks the end of the financial year; the fourth is Annakutsav, considered the first day of the new year; and the final day is Bhai Beej, which celebrates siblings.
Following the prayers, students ate an assortment of traditional Indian food and chatted about traditions at home.
“During Diwali, everyone goes home and spends time with their families. It’s different here in the sense that I’m with friends instead of family on Diwali,” said Aakriti Anand ‘18 at Claremont McKenna College.
“What I miss from back home is we play cards. It’s like a mini casino. We always played the game called Rummy,” Bhabika Booragadda ‘18 at Claremont McKenna.
Shringi Diva Vikram ‘20 said her favorite part about celebrating in India is looking at the beautiful candles and lamps, but here she feels a great sense of community. “It’s comforting to be surrounded by others who are also celebrating this holiday and can relate to my traditions. I really miss home right now but there is still something really special about this,” she said.
“The celebration at the Claremont Consortium is a place where your culture and religion are respected and where you can still act accordingly to it and celebrate all those major times,” said Meghana ‘17, President of the Hindu Society. “Other people are just as excited about it even if they’re not Indian or Hindu. Everyone comes together and is just so happy.”
Following dinner, students danced to various Indian dances. Students performed the Bharathanatyam, which is a classical Indian dance, the Jalte, and the Banno. In addition, The Competitive Team of Claremont Tamasha performed a dance routine. Then, students danced on the open dance floor and received Mendhi (henna).
The successful celebration was organized and hosted by the Hindu Society, with the help of many others. Over 20 CLORGS contributed funds to this event and Rabbi Danny, advisor to the Hindu society through the McAlister center, aided logistically. Ravikuman was the main organizer of this event. She cited difficulties in getting access to a location on the consortium and raising enough money to fund the event (it cost approximately $4,800).
Due to the challenge in finding an open space to celebrate, the 5C celebration took place two weeks after the actual holiday.
Another complication to the event came after the outcome of the Presidential election.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to hold it after the election because people felt so disbanded and it’s such a sensitive time,” Ravikuman said. “However, We ended up going through with it because our culture is so important to us. We realized that Donald Trump’s platform is about denying people’s identities. The last thing we wanted to do is allow him to do that.”
Diwali is a time of coming together, forming a community, and being with people that you love. Despite recent events, it seems students at the Claremont Consortium were able to do just that.