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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Hindu student group lights up the night at Diwali ceremony

OM-Hindu Students Council will kick off its celebration of the Hindu festival of lights Sunday with friends, food and fireworks.

The council will offer religious programming from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, followed by a catered Indian meal.

Although the festival, Diwali, actually begins Oct. 25, OM-Hindu Students Council is celebrating early to allow students to spend the day with their families but still have a chance to enjoy the holiday with friends, said Shital Shah, the group’s academic co-president.

“For the people that are coming from far distances it’s nice to have something that reminds them of home,” said Shah, a Weinberg sophomore.

Diwali is a five-day holiday celebrated across India and considered by some to be the Hindu new year. It is celebrated by making offerings, or “pujas,” mostly to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. To celebrate, people buy new clothes, sing bhajans — hymns of praise to the gods — and light little candles and oil lamps called “diyas.” Firecrackers also are set off, their lights symbolizing knowledge and renewal.

“Basically it’s just a time where you go and meet a lot of family and friends,” Shah said.

Diwali is celebrated differently by Hindus around the world. In northern India the festival marks the homecoming of the hero Rama, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, after 14 years in exile. In Bengal, Diwali is tied to the goddess Kali and in other places it celebrates the god Shiva and marks the new moon. But despite differences it is universally held as a joyous day.

“It’s almost the Hindu equivalent of Christmas in a way,” Shah said. “Everywhere it’s celebrated with the same spirit and celebrates renewal of life.”

Gaurav Verma, OM-Hindu Students Council webmaster, said Diwali offers a chance to have fun and keep in touch with his cultural roots.

“Diwali’s my favorite festival, being from India,” said Verma, a McCormick senior. “In India you’re sort of immersed with it but here you sort of get it wherever you can.”

The event, which will be held in Parkes Hall, Room 122, drew 120 people last year and Shah expects 150 will attend this year.

The celebration’s biggest draw is the dinner, which is catered by Viceroy of India on Devon Avenue in Chicago. The dinner costs $5 for the group’s members and $7 for nonmembers.

The council also will be organizing a trip to the Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago in Lemont, Ill., Oct. 25, where students will be able to celebrate Diwali and make devotional offerings, eat and watch fireworks.

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Hindu student group lights up the night at Diwali ceremony