Campus Lights Up for Diwali

Candles will soon glow throughout hallways and rotundas as students gear up to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, on Wednesday, November 7.

While the celebration is annually observed by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, and other religious groups around the world, this year will be the first time that Diwali is celebrated on large scale on campus. In previous years, a few students have taken it upon themselves to organize small festivities, hoping to share the tradition with their peers. Last year, Aritri Ghosh ’19 and Priyanka Kumar ’19 placed electric candles around the main building. Ghosh, Kumar, and Aadi Kulkarni ’18 also spoke during an all-school auditorium about the history and traditions of the celebration. 

This year, Ghosh and Kumar worked closely with the administration to ensure that the tradition, important to so many, comes alive for the community at Hotchkiss and that annual events for Diwali will be added to the yearly calendar in the future. Ghosh said, “It’s important to celebrate our cultural differences, not only so that others can learn something new but also to provide support for those who want to bring a piece of their traditions to Hotchkiss. We want to let others know that we are open-minded and will encourage and appreciate their backgrounds.”

In preparation for this year’s Diwali celebration, Kumar communicated with Mrs. Sara Gibb, director of student activities; Dr. Jason Larson, chaplain; Dr. Rachel Myers, director of diversity and inclusion; Dr. Anju Taneja, instructor in physics; and Ms. Nora Yasumura, director of student clubs and affinity groups, to schedule chapel talks, all-school presentations, religious gatherings, and dinners for community members who would like to observe Diwali.

The events began on Monday, October 15 with chapel talks given by Arhan Chhabra ’22, Anav Dutt ’19, Alisa Ghura ’19, and Keith Matanachai ’22. The speakers shared personal stories and explained what Diwali means to them. In her speech, Ghura described how Diwali celebrates Hindu goddess Lakshmi’s birthday and her marriage to the god Lord Vishnu, saying, “I have always particularly appreciated [the fact that] Lakshmi does not discriminate against caste, religion, or social status. She will grace any household that seeks her and is worthy of her.” 

In the remaining days leading up to Diwali, more events will follow. On Tuesday, November 6, Dr. Taneja will host a dinner at Fairfield Farm. Then, on Diwali day, community members are invited to convene in the multi-faith room for a “lighting the lamp” ceremony. These events aim to serve as a space for meditation or recitation of prayers, and eat traditional Indian sweets such as Soan Papdi. Students wishing to participate in this event are encouraged to fill out the RSVP sent out by Kumar via email.