Diwali is commonly known as the festival of lights, and light is a universal symbol of spirituality, knowledge, purity, positivity, and goodness. Diwali is celebrated around the world, not only by Hindus, but also by Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, and others. It is fitting then, that we were able to welcome all members of the larger Georgetown community to attend and celebrate Diwali with us, reflecting Georgetown students’ commitment to interfaith interactions. It was a promising beginning that will hopefully continue to expand in future years to further incorporate the diversity of Diwali traditions found within different regions of India itself, and also around the world.
Celebrating with a larger community of people, Hindus and non-Hindus, is something special in itself, and evoked different feelings for me than does celebrating with just my family or a few other people. I felt a sense of serenity that came from reflecting as an individual while sitting cross-legged among a diverse group of people, about what having this opportunity meant to me, and about the changing dynamics of Hinduism in our generation as a whole. I felt a sense of connectedness in knowing that everyone in attendance had taken the time out of their busy schedules to come together and observe this festival at Georgetown. It was a great reminder of the home Georgetown has become for me in the past few years by providing opportunities for expression and growth, such as this Diwali puja.
Hindu worship services can be complex and go beyond the religious knowledge that most students have, and a priest usually facilitates a traditional puja. During this Diwali puja, Brahmachari Sharan brought a wealth of religious knowledge to the puja that simply would not have been possible to recreate with a student-run puja. His expertise provides students an invaluable source of Hindu religious learning and a chance to celebrate Hindu festivals in a more traditional manner. For students who are interested, this can greatly enrich the spiritual and personal growth that occurs as a part of the university experience and is a cornerstone of Georgetown’s Jesuit identity. For many, including myself, this year’s Diwali puja brought back a nostalgia and appreciation for the traditions that I was raised with.