Natalie Smith | Saint Mary’s Observer students celebrated Diwali and Band Chhor Divas Friday afternoon in the student center.
Diwali, a five-day celebration that began on November 12, is a Hindu festival that is also part of other Indian religions. The lights displayed for the festival symbolize the victory of good over evil.
This year, Saint Mary’s sophomore Jasleen Ghattora celebrated the festival and presented it to students Friday from noon to 2 pm in the atrium of Saint Mary’s Student Center.
“We are celebrating Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas. Diwali is a Hindu festival and Chhor Divas is a Sikh festival,” Ghattora said. “I come from both backgrounds and it was last week, and I thought the Saint Mary’s community didn’t know much about Hindu and Sikh holidays. I decided, ‘Why not bring them to campus, give people some treats, and try to introduce people to more cultures?'”
On Ghattora’s table in the lobby were lights that showed how people celebrated the holidays and items that were donated to students who stopped by. There was also an art display on the floor that students could walk around and view.
“Diwali is the festival of lights, hence Diyas [lamps] have light in it. This means Diwali, and usually on Diwali and Bandi Chhor Diwas we have a lot of sweets,” Ghattora said. “We offered desserts. There are three different varieties and we have Indian style decks to give to students.”
Students who approached the table were able to learn about the holidays, grab a treat and understand why Ghattora had set up the table and what was on offer.
“The one thing I remember specifically was about how it was a celebration of lights and that’s why there were a lot of candles on the table,” freshman Isabella Gonzales said. “There were some sweets they brought. One contained gelatin and another a mixture of coconuts, walnuts and lime.
Gonzales said interactions with different cultures are very important to the Saint Mary’s community and society as a whole.
“I think celebrating these other religions will create a closer connection with some cultures and help us better understand how they celebrate and what they do to celebrate them,” he added. “It has this form of unity.”
The Center for Faith, Action and Ministry (CFAM) at Saint Mary’s Ministries serves students of all religious backgrounds as well as non-religious students. They do this to build community among all students, regardless of what they believe or what they celebrate, according to CFAM members.
“I work for CFAM and a lot of what we do is just honor and value each other’s faiths, and I really wanted to support and learn about a little bit of Hindu and Sikh culture,” said Amelia Moroney, a sophomore.
During the event several groups of people, whether they knew the event leader or not, stopped by to see what was going on and learn more about Diwali.
“I learned a lot more about Diwali — how it is a festival of lights and celebrates triumph over darkness,” Moroney said. “Jasleen was telling me all about the traditions and things his family does. It is the favorite festival of many Hindus and Sikhs precisely because for them it is the most significant event of the year.
The message behind the event, Ghattora explained, was for people to learn more about different cultures and traditions that they may not know much about.
“We decided that even though there are different cultures on a Catholic campus, they mostly have the same values… It doesn’t matter what religion you are from, [you] celebrate life, bring joy into your life and the lives of others and always fight injustice and evil – which is the theme of Bandi Chhor Divas,” Ghattora said.