Hindus mark 'festival of lights' in Truitt Center celebration
Elon University hosted a program that brought together Hindus who shared with others of various faith traditions how the Diwali holiday marks the triumph of good over evil.
People from the Elon University community and beyond celebrated Diwali on Nov. 5 in the Numen Lumen Pavilion where food, song and dance characterized the Hindu “festival of lights.”
Sponsored by the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, the program included a reading with two Hindu professors at the university - Srikant Vallabhajosula in the Department of Physical Therapy Education, and Srikripa Chandrasekaran in the Department of Biology – and an introduction from first-year student Prateek Patel.
The celebration, attended by about 100 people, also featured food prepared by Patel's family with contributions from Taaza Indian Bistro on Huffman Mill Road in Burlington, N.C. Samosas, rice and gulab jamun were some of the many items on the menu.
Vallabhajosula and Chandrasekaran were among a core group of organizers that also included Assistant Chaplain Adam Miller-Stubbendick, the director of religious and spiritual life at the university, as well as Truitt Center student interns Danielle Biggs and Jessica Bast.
In the Hindu faith tradition, Diwali represents the triumph of good over evil, and the five-day holiday often is celebrated with colorful displays of light, family gatherings and fireworks. “It’s a religious and cultural festival,” Miller-Stubbendick explained. “In the West, we separate culture and religion so often, but in the rest of the world, there aren’t such hard and fast divides.
“For our Hindu students, I hope this was a way to lift up and connect with their backgrounds and cultures and traditions, a way to remind them that we appreciate them being here.”
Elon’s Diwali celebration welcomed a dance troupe from N.C. State University, which demonstrated a dance from the Indian subcontinent before teaching guests some of the basic steps involved in the performance.
For organizers, entertainment was only one component of the evening.
“With our events, we always look forward to what conversations are started during and after the events themselves,” said Biggs, a junior from South Brunswick, N.J., and the Truitt Center's spirituality and the arts intern. “Our main goal was not just to make it a success by how many people showed up or how much fun they had, but to capture the essence of the magic that is Diwali.”