Diwali at Georgetown

By: Abhilasha Banerjee

November 4, 2011

As a member of Georgetown University’s Hindu Students Association, I helped organize our annual Diwali Dinner on November 4, 2011. Deepavali or Diwali is most commonly known as the “festival of lights” and symbolizes the universal themes of light overcoming darkness and goodness prevailing over evil. Historically, the festival is related to the events in the epic The Ramayana in which the Hindu God Rama is sentenced to exile by his father’s third wife, Kaikeyi. Diwali signifies the day that the Rama returns to his kingdom, Ayodhya, after years of exile. The kingdom rejoices in Rama’s return home by lighting the streets with candles and overall celebrating his joyous return. Hence, in India and other countries around the world, Diwali is celebrated by lighting diyas or lamps, lighting fireworks, drawing rangoli, and spending time with family and friends.
At 8 PM, we started celebrating Diwali by holding a short puja or prayer service in which offerings were made to the Hindu idols Ganesh, Sarwasati, Krishna, and Shiva. After, we described the significance and origin of Diwali as an introduction for students that were unfamiliar with the festival. Lastly, as a group we sang “Om Jai Jagadesh” while giving our prayers to the idols and asking for their blessings. After the prayer service was completed, we served free Indian food and spent time talking with our friends, classmates, and other Georgetown community members. By the completion of the night, we put on popular Hindi music and danced for the rest of the event.

Personally, among all the events that the Hindu Students Association holds I enjoy celebrating Diwali the most because it portrays how open and respectful Georgetown students and community members are when celebrating a primarily Hindu festival. As I waited by the table with idols and watched as both Hindu and non-Hindu students prayed and asked for blessings from the Gods and Goddesses, I truly appreciated when students asked me to show them how to offer their prayers, the significance of each step of the rituals, and their overall interest in taking part of a religion that may have been completely new to them.

Diwali is a wonderful example of the goal of Georgetown’s challenge because it brings together not only religions outside of Hinduism such as Jainism and Sikhism, but it also encompasses a universal message of goodness prevailing over evil which all faiths can relate to. Ultimately if everyone followed the underlying message of lightness pervading over darkness, the world would be a wonderful place to live in.

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Diwali at Georgetown