In honor of Diwali Monday night, the BAPS Campus Fellowship invited undergraduate students to take part in the celebration of light.
BAPS members decorated the Student Union Ballroom for a joyful Diwali celebration. There was a backdrop with an image of a diya and the words “In the Joy of Others” for taking pictures, as well as three signs highlighting the values of truth, simplicity, and integrity. The tables throughout the room had electric candles in front of each seat and centerpieces with brightly colored umbrellas.
In one corner of the ballroom, an Annakut (mountain of food) was prepared. The food on the platform was prepared by UConn students and symbolized offerings to God.
“If you come to a local temple, there’s over a thousand dishes that we offer to god,” Bansari Patel, a UConn alumni and BAPS member, said. “Here, we do a smaller version of that, and all of these dishes are made by undergraduate students here.”
The monk Sadhu Shantyogidas’ speech was the main event of the night. The monk talked about the deeper meaning of Diwali. The holiday celebrates bringing light into one’s life and encourages compassion. He talked about how individuals should simplify their lifestyles to achieve happiness and peace. Additionally, he recommended that prayer be combined with an effort to reach one’s goals.
“I think I learned that it’s a really big celebration,” Kelly Finn, a seventh-semester applied and resource economics major, said. “I mean it fuses culture, festivity and religion as well, which is something I wasn’t aware about, so really cool to see that from a different religion, different culture, different perspective. It’s really beautiful.”
After the monk’s speech, BAPS members performed Thaal, during which devotees offer vegetarian food to the gods and sing devotional songs. BAPS then invited attendees to turn on the electric candles on their tables and participate in the Arti ritual, where people circle a lamp in a clockwise direction in front of the image of a god.
BAPS made the Diwali celebration interactive for their attendees. There was an area where students could write what makes them happy on a paper cut-out of a diya and pin it to a clothesline as well as a rangoli that students could color in. BAPS also ran a Kahoot game that allowed attendees to learn more about Diwali. From the game, students learned that one billion people celebrate Diwali, that many major religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism celebrate the holiday and that it celebrates the victory of Lord Ram and Lord Krishna.
At the end of the celebration, BAPS members served food that students and members had made. Dishes included traditional fare like naan, samosas, and paneer as well as Western treats like cupcakes, cookies and muffins.
Students found the event enjoyable as well as educational. Some particularly liked the message behind the holiday.
“I’m Christian, but I feel like a lot of the values are pretty similar,” Gina Rufo, a fifth-semester physics major, said. “A lot of people tend to kind of pit them against each other, like religion and stuff, but I feel like there’s that value of humanity and humility that’s like the same, and I appreciate that.”
Stephanie Santillo is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.