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Festivities for Diwali and Navarathri bring India to campus

Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in the Fall. Having the same connotation in India that New Year’s Day does in Western cultures, the festival celebrates the brightness and color in life.
While Diwali’s official celebration is only in a few weeks, the student organization OM organized it the past week between Oct. 13 and 17. OM grouped Diwali festivities together with the celebration of Navarathri, because it is a well-liked festivity among all students on campus.
Navarathri, a festival dedicated to the Hindu deity Durga, is celebrated over nine nights with each day being represented by a different color — usually expressed through colorful outfits — depending on what events are happening on a certain day and how auspicious it is.
The club organizes this week-long celebration at Carnegie Mellon every year by putting together a series of events where the main focus is light.
Some of the events organized this year included a Pujan (a traditional praying ceremony in the school chapel), the lighting of candles in front of the Jared L. Cohon University Center, and a Garba dance workshop. These events are directed not only at the Indian community at Carnegie Mellon, but also at the whole student body. According to Vice President of Communications of OM and junior economics and statistics major Srishti Jain, these events attract large crowds. The praying ceremony on Tuesday was comprised of twenty students. The students sang a common Indian prayer song and took a moment of silence to pray for good things to come.
For Jain, this is an important moment, especially because students are far away from their families at school. Thus, the organizers hoped to convey a homey feeling to those that are present. An event on Wednesday titled “Lights will guide you hOMe” gathered students on the Merson courtyard to light diyas — a kind of oil lamp — symbolizing lighting up one’s life and the world. The culmination of Diwali Week was Saturday in an event called Diwali Garba. In a combination of all that was celebrated during the week, this is the club’s biggest event. Diwali Garba took place in the CUC’s Wiegand Gymnasium, decorated with saris and lights, and it usually gathers three hundred to four hundred people in a family-style celebration that includes dinner followed by several performances of students such as the Raas dance team, folklore dances, and a cappella singing. It is also a good time to have fun with friends and dress up, as Srishti recalls sharing some of her traditional clothes with girls on her floor during her first year.
In order to sell tickets, OM has tried something different by posting the event on Carnegie Mellon’s new online ticket office to facilitate the process and broaden the spectrum of guests able to attend.
OM is one of the most prominent organizations on campus for Hindu, Sikh, and Jain spirituality and culture. The club organizes events throughout the year which focus not only on religious aspects of these groups but also on their cultural significance. Some events to look forward to are the Lohri in the Winter — a Sikh event where people gather around a giant bonfire while enjoying music, performances, s’mores and Indian-style corn — and Holi in the Spring, known as the festival of color, where people sing and dance, while chasing and coloring each other.
Around 1000 people went to OM’s Holi celebration last year.