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Saint Mary’s students celebrate Diwali, Bandi Chhor Divas

| Monday, November 20, 2023

Natalie Smith | The Observer
Saint Mary’s students celebrated Diwali and Band Chhor Divas Friday afternoon in the student center.

Diwali, a five-day celebration that began Nov. 12, is a Hindu festival which is also part of other Indian religions. Lights that are set out for the festival symbolize the victory of good over evil.

This year sophomore Saint Mary’s student, Jasleen Ghattora, celebrated the festival and introduced students to it on Friday from noon to 2 p.m. in the atrium of the Saint Mary’s student center.

“We’re 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 figured the Saint Mary’s community does not know a lot about Hindu and Sikh festivals. I decided, ‘Why not bring them to campus, give people some treats and try to get people to know about more cultures?’”

Ghattora’s table in the atrium had lights set up that showed how people celebrated the festivals and items that were given to students who stopped by. There was also an art display on the floor that students could walk by and see.

“Diwali is the festival of lights so the Diyas [lamps] have light in it. That’s to signify Diwali, and usually on Diwali and Bandi Chhor Diwas we have a lot of sweets,” Ghattora said. “We have sweets offered. There are three different varieties, and we have Indian-style door decks to give to students.”

Students who went up to the table were able to learn about the festivals, grab a treat and understand why Ghattora had planned the table and what was being offered.

“The one thing I remember specifically was about how it was a celebration of lights and that’s why there’s a lot of candles on the table,” freshman Isabella Gonzales said. “There were sweets that they brought. One had jelly and another had a mixture of coconuts, nuts and lime.”

Gonzales said interactions with different cultures are very important for the Saint Mary’s community and society as a whole. 

“I think celebrating these other religions will create a closer connection to certain cultures and help us better understand how they celebrate and what they do to celebrate it,” she added. “It has this form of unity.”

The Center for Faith, Action and Ministry (CFAM) at Saint Mary’s ministers to students of all religious backgrounds and non-religious students. They do this to build community between all students no matter what they believe in or what they celebrate, according to members of CFAM.

“I work for CFAM and a big part of what we do is just honoring and cherishing each other’s faiths, and I really wanted to support and get to know a bit of Hindu and Sikh culture,” sophomore Amelia Moroney said.

During the event different groups of people — whether they knew the event leader or not — stopped by to see what was happening and learn more about Diwali.

“I have learned a lot more about Diwali — about how it’s a festival of lights and it celebrates the triumph over darkness,” Moroney said. “Jasleen was telling me all about the traditions and things that her family does. It’s a lot of Hindu and Sikh people’s favorite holiday just because it’s the most significant event in the year for them.”

The message behind the event, Ghattora explained, was for people to learn more about different cultures and traditions that they might not know a lot about.

“We decided that even though there are different cultures on a Catholic campus, they have mostly the same values … No matter what religion you’re from, [you] celebrate life, bring joy into your life and other people’s lives and always fight injustice and evil — which is the theme of Bandi Chhor Divas,” Ghattora said. 

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