Celebrating the Festival of Lights

Dorothy Lee ’26 in Features | November 10, 2023

        On Monday, November 6, the Hindu Students Organization (HSO) hosted a Diwali celebration in front of the Edith Memorial Chapel. Diwali is a five-day Hindu celebration that also holds historical significance within Jain and Sikh culture. The date Diwali takes place every year in accordance with the Indian lunisolar calendar, as the celebration occurs on the darkest day of the lunar month—this year’s Diwali will be observed on Sunday, November 12. Each religion honors this festival with different tales, but the essence of the holiday remains the same across the three cultures: celebrating light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. 

        “It’s a big celebration where you spend time with family, spend time with your loved ones…eat food, light fireworks, [and] just have a good time,” Sameer Menghani ’24 explained. As one of the presidents of the HSO, Menghani helped plan the event; the preparation process included promoting the event during School Meeting, purchasing firecrackers and fireworks, and ordering traditional Diwali dishes for the attendees—these dishes included jalebi, kaju katli, soan cakes, samosas, and chai. 

        The festival began with a ritual of worship called a “puja,” which is often performed as part of Diwali. The puja was followed by a student dance performance to the song “Chammak Challo” by Senegalese singer Akon Dorothy Lee ’26 News Associate and Indian popstar Hamsika Iyer. The dance was choreographed by Sonia Singhal ’24, who is the captain of Nachale, Lawrenceville’s Bollywood and Indian classical dance ensemble. “Dancing has been important to [her] [her] whole life,” Singhal said, “and it is another [way] to explore [her] background.” To Singhal, Diwali is an opportunity to “celebrate family.” At Lawrenceville, that means “hanging out with different people and celebrating an important part of [her] heritage.” 

        Singhal’s favorite part of Diwali was the fireworks that concluded the celebration. “It is the Festival of Lights…so we always light candles and watch fireworks,” Menghani added. 

        Reflecting on her experience, Arya Vishwakarma ’25 said, “Diwali is a cultural celebration as well as a religious one…because Hinduism is more than a religion. It is a way of life.” She described the festival as “a reason to gather and celebrate together during the dark times of Winter Term.” 

        Menghani believe that the celebration gave “everyone, regardless of their religion,” the opportunity to “build community at school” while learning more about Hindu culture. With Diwali being more than just having fun with food and firecrackers, he hopes for the attendees to remember what this celebration of light represents. “Even when times are difficult, things are going to pass…Come together and things will be better in the long run,” Menghani concluded.