Ramapo community gathers for Hindu festival of lights

Photo by Hope Patti

More than 150 students and faculty from different backgrounds gathered in Trustees Pavilion on Wednesday to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights and share a meal that included a wide selection of Indian foods such as samosa, rice and dishes seasoned with masala.

“This is Diwali, the festival of lights, celebrated mostly in South Asia, India and Nepal,” said Rajesh Adhikari, director of international student and scholar services. “It’s mostly about bringing the family together and celebrating life. Everyone’s in a jolly mood eating sweets and food.”

Students truly were in a jolly mood, enjoying the buffet of Indian food being served. The food available included prata, rice, samosas, chicken items, masala and some Indian sweets. Students from all cultures and backgrounds came to enjoy the festival’s food and lights.

“This is the first time you see people together of different cultures talking,” said Asha Mehta, nursing advisor.

Celebrations of Diwali can last up to five days when celebrated in Nepal, and two or three in different regions of India. There is also a religious meaning to the festival, but Ramapo is celebrating it as a whole without the religious connotation.

Without the religious aspect, students from all backgrounds were able to come together to appreciate the festival.

“I like how there’s a lot of diverse people here, and it’s great to show them our culture,” said Sandy Aung, junior. “Even if they’re here to enjoy the food, there’s something else special about sharing something that is important to me.”

The room was alive with lights across the ceilings and walls, and a video of a traditional Indian dancer played along with music on the screen.

“I’m from Nepal, so this reminds me of home. Everyone back home is celebrating too,” said sophomore Rojina Shrestha.

However, even with all the festivities, those who have experienced Diwali in Nepal recalled just how incredible the festival of lights is back home.

“All of the houses are lit up everywhere, the streets are all lit up and there’s fireworks,” said Adhikari, describing what the true Diwali is like in Nepal. “It’s amazing.”

Staff, faculty and students come together to appreciate this holiday each year due to the large number of students from Nepal who are a part of the Ramapo community.

“We have a large population of Nepal students who celebrate Diwali, so we want to make sure that they get a chance to celebrate their holiday,” said Rick Brown, director of the Center for Student Involvement. “We also want to make sure that the rest of the campus gets exposed to Diwali and find out more about it.”



The original version of this article incorrectly described masala as a food. Masala is a spice or collection of spices.