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The Scarlet & Black

Diwali festival to bring lights, food and fun

On Friday, Nov. 5, the Diwali Dinner will be held in Harris. Diwali, largely known as a Hindu festival, is also celebrated in Sikhism and Jainism. Also called the Festival of Lights, Diwali celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

This is the third consecutive year that Diwali will be celebrated at the college. In the past, a priest has come in to do pooja and pray with students. This year, the organizers themselves are considering dedicating a prayer shrine for interested attendees. On Thursday, there will be a symbolic slaying of the demon at the fire pit.

A diverse group of students has worked on planning Diwali this year.

“[It’s] a collaboration of people who are really interested in organizing it—it’s not just Hindus and people to whom the festival has significance,” said Gayatri Jayal ’11, one of the main organizers of the event.

This planning involves everything from tabling outside the Dining Hall to setting up Harris the night of the event.

“In past years, we’ve always had an excess [of interest], so this year we’ve put it at 250 tickets,” Jayal said.

This year, Diwali boasts support from academic offices on campus.

“… What’s different is that we have support from the Religious Studies department,” Jayal said. “Professor Tim Dobe is going to give a talk. I think it’s going to be the best presentation about Diwali that we’ve ever had.”

“[My speech will] put the event in the context of the need to develop a pluralistic society—a society in which Americans take five, six or more religious traditions for granted as a basic part of American life,” Dobe wrote in an e-mail. “Non-Christian Indians—and Bangladeshis, Nepalis and more—celebrate Christmas. Why can’t we reciprocate and support a major Hindu holiday?”

The event will be catered by an Indian restaurant in Cedar Rapids and food will include both allergy-friendly and vegetarian options.

“There’s going to be a rice dish, naan, daal [lentils], a vegetable dish, butter chicken and rice pudding,” Jayal said.
Scores of students are excited for this opportunity to sample food that is not readily available in Grinnell.

“Eid and Diwali are the two events where you can get Indian food on campus, so I think that’s what many people go for,” said Stephanie Wang ’11, another organizer.

Other activities will include henna tattooing and rangoli.

“[Rangoli is] colored powder, you make designs in front of your houses, but we’re going to have rice with food coloring [instead],” said Biva Rajbhandari ’12.

In the past, proceeds from the event have gone to UNICEF, but this year, the money will go to flood relief in Pakistan. Contributions from donation boxes at the dinner will supplement revenue earned from tickets.

“I know [the floods] happened a while ago, but so many people are suffering, and efforts have been really low, especially in terms of donations,” Rajbhandari said. “Many colleges are doing their part in trying to raise money, so I’m really hoping that people [here] will learn more about it.”

The Diwali dinner will take place at 6 p.m. in the Harris Center tonight, Nov. 5. At 8 p.m., after the dinner, there will be a movie screening of Lage Raho Munna Bhai in ARH 302.

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