On Sunday, October 18, Carleton commemorated the Hindu “festival of lights,” Diwali, with a celebratory event held at the Severance Great Hall. The event featured a keynote address by guest speaker Suhag Shukla, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation, followed by vocal and dance performances by members of DESI (Dedicated to the Exploration of South-Asian Interests) club and other Carleton students.
Shukla’s speech focused on the religious significance of Diwali for Hindus, and specifically, for Hindus in America today. As the Managing Director and Legal Counsel of the Hindu American Foundation, Shukla builds inter and intrafaith relations and provides analyses on key issues such as religious discrimination and immigration reform. The Hindu American Foundation, started in 2004, is an advocacy group providing a progressive voice for the Hindu population in America.
Shukla led a religious prayer with four other Carleton students and invited members of the audience to recite it along with her. The performances that followed included traditional Indian dances by Arpita Bhattacharyya ’10 (Rochester, Minn.) and Vaishali Umrikar ’13 (Naperville, Ill.), recitals of popular songs from Indian cinema by Lipi Gupta ’12 (Mclean, Va.) and Bittu Kri ’10 (India), and a Western-Indian dance fusion called “Bollywood Medley” by a large group of DESI club members.
Hindus around the world commonly regard Diwali as the most important festival of the Hindu calendar. It marks, for them, the return of their god Rama to his kingdom Ayodhya after defeating the demon Ravana. The festival thus honors the victory of good over evil. Hindus celebrate this important day by lighting small clay lamps in their houses and neighborhoods, giving Diwali the title of “festival of lights.”
This annual event was sponsored by Carleton College’s Office of the Chaplain, Office of Intercultural Life, and the DESI club.