As the days grow shorter and colder, family and friends gather to welcome the beginning of fall. Diwali celebrates the season by bringing communities together, with the annual festivity traditionally being celebrated by religious groups such as Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.
Diwali, or Deepavali, represents the “festival of lights.” Diwali is celebrated during the month of Karthik, which begins in mid-October and ends in mid-November. The main purpose of this festival is to celebrate the triumph of good over evil as well as enlightenment, victory and freedom.
Montclair State University celebrates Diwali every year. On Nov. 1, the South Asian Student Association (SASA) of Montclair State hosted their annual Diwali festival from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Student Center ballrooms.
To appreciate the cultural richness of the event, it is important to learn about how Diwali is celebrated traditionally.
During the night of Diwali, Hindus place clay lamps, which are known as diyas, and dozens of candles on the street. More specifically, these items are placed front of people’s windows and people even float them in lakes.
Family gatherings are another way Diwali is celebrated. Hindus wear brand new clothing, eat sweets and special foods and light candles and lanterns in the company of family and friends.
At 7 p.m. the event started with Bollywood music and the arrival of students, family members and friends. When everybody had taken their seats, Shahil Patel, the secretary of SASA, handed everyone raffle tickets.
Rohan Gandhi, the vice president of SASA, and Samadur Rahman, the treasurer of SASA, provided a lecture on why Diwali is held on campus and explained what the festival means. A video showing what Diwali is and Asian student’s reactions toward Diwali at Montclair State was also shown to the guests.
Shahil Patel, sophomore business major, explained the reason behind why the festival is annually held.
“The main purpose of having this festival is to spread the cultural awareness and the festival throughout campus and to people who want to understand the South Asian culture,” Patel said.
When the lecture ended, food was served. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods were provided such as Tikka chicken, vegetable and chicken biryani, samosas, vegetable pakoras and veggie noodles.
After dinner, there was a dance competition. A Montclair State student performed bhangra before dance groups from The College of New Jersey and John Jay College of Criminal Justice took the stage.
When the dance competition was over, Jasmine Thomas, the president of SASA, and Rohan Gandhi called the raffle and gave out prizes.
Another lecture was given on Cry America, which is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to overcome child abuse and child labor in India. Everyone was encouraged to donate to the Cry America organization.
The festival ended with dancing on the floor to Bollywood music. Representatives from the Unified Asian American Student Organization, Native African Student Organization, Student Government Association, Arabic Students Association, Montclair State Dietetics Organization, Montclair State Dance Company and Montclair State bhangra joined SASA on the dance floor. These organizations co-sponsored Diwali to help make the celebration a night to remember.
Diwali was a free event on campus and everyone, even those from other religions, were welcome to attend. Samadur Rahman, a junior computer science major, expressed his interest in getting people involved beyond those in his own culture.
“We want to spread what Diwali means and want to gather people who do and don’t celebrate Diwali,” Rahman said.
SASA truly succeeded in spreading their culture within the campus community by welcoming one and all to celebrate Diwali with them.