Popular Diwali celebrations planned throughout Northeast campus


When former Northeastern graduate student Sagar Rajpal organized the first Diwali celebration on the university campus in Boston in 2017, he had no idea hundreds would fill the Sacred Space and Ballroom at Ell Hall.

The Festival of Lights, which continues each year under Rajpal’s direction, attracted more than 2,000 revelers last year. This year, he’s expecting even more as the holiday celebration grows in popularity.

The event from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, October 24 at the Curry Student Center in Boston includes darshan and diya decorations on the second floor, a photo of both on the first floor and food in the Robinson Quad. There will also be a Rangoli competition from 3pm to 5pm on the mezzanine with voting and judging from 5pm to 8pm

Diwali is also celebrated at Northeastern campuses in Toronto, Vancouver, San Jose, Seattle and Oakland. Celebrations in San Jose and Seattle took place on Friday, October 21st.

At Mills College in Northeast Oakland, Diwali will be celebrated on Monday, October 24 from 5pm to 7pm in the Solidarity Lounge next to the fraternity. The event includes spiritual practices, Indian food, dancing to Bollywood music and card games.

On the Toronto campus, Diwali will be celebrated on Friday, October 28 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event includes dance performances, music and traditional and cultural performances of Indian culture and food.

Rajpal, who is currently associate director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, says when he first organized the celebration in Boston five years ago, “it was a dream project.” And now, he says, he looks forward to seeing thousands of people from all backgrounds join the celebration.

“Growing up in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society in Mumbai, India, I saw people of all religions and traditions coming together to celebrate Diwali. Everyone carries a light within them and it is so important not only to cultivate that light but also to celebrate it,” says Rajpal. “When I planned the first Desi Diwali at Northeastern University in 2017, the main intention was to create a space where everyone – regardless of identity or background – could come together as a community and celebrate the light within themselves and the light of the world .”

Monday’s Diwali celebration at the Boston campus will feature thousands of lights, food, worship, music, competition and a photo booth. Unlike in previous years, no tickets are required to participate. The event was extended to five hours to accommodate more people.

“It’s a fair, like a kind of drop-in drop-out event,” says Rajpal. “Furthermore, it’s not ticketed in any way. So it’s open to the wider community to participate in the celebration and essentially get a little glimpse into different aspects of the celebration.”

Because the event has become so popular, Rajpal said he is looking for a venue that can accommodate up to 5,000 people for future celebrations.

Diwali is a five-day holiday known as the Festival of Lights, celebrated by Hindu, Jain, Sikh and some Buddhist communities. According to Rajpal, it is both a religious and cultural holiday, considered by many to be the biggest of the year.

According to tradition, diyas – clay lamps with ghee/oil and a wick – are lit inside and outside of houses. Rajpal says that any light can be used today. The holiday involves the worship of various gods and goddesses including Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, and Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge and arts. Food is a big part of the holiday, as is rangoli, the colorful art form that originated in India.

“The Festival of Lights not only celebrates the lights outside, but also the light within you,” says Rajpal. “Communion is the most important part of Diwali; be with your friends and family to celebrate the light within and without you.”

Alexander Levering Kern, director of the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service, and Megan Compaine, associate director of Academic Services and International Student Support at the Office of Global Service, have been instrumental in organizing the Diwali celebrations over the years, Rajpal says .

In addition to the Monday event in Boston, Sakshi Chougule, a graduate student at Northeastern and President of the NU Sanskriti Organization, is helping organize another Diwali celebration at the Blackman Auditorium from 8:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday, October 28 .

Chougule says the Friday celebration will be an entertainment event with dancing, music and a fashion show.

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