Last Friday night, at Clark University, I finished my Shabbat dinner at Hillel in the Grace Conference room and headed upstairs to Tilton hall for the annual Eid-Diwali dinner. I said Shabbat Shalom to all my friends before leaving, and an hour later found myself saying Eid Mubarak and Shuva Dipawali.
SASA (South Asian Student Association) hosted this year’s Eid-Diwali dinner. Eid-Diwali is an annual event at Clark that co-celebrates the Muslim holiday of Eid and the Hindu holiday of Diwali when they fall near each other and is a great example of Clark’s diversity. Muslim and Hindu international students helped manage the event together, ranging from Bangladesh and Pakistan to India and Nepal, and many other students helped too.
The room was packed with people sitting at their rounded tables.The scenery was spectacularly decorated with yellow, pink, and purple lights hung up along the same colored curtains behind the podium for dancing and singing. When you first walked in, you would see a picture of a giant mosque with Islamic crescents all around it across the room, and when you turned around you would see a picture of a Hindu temple.
It is important to note some of the background and traditions for both holidays. Eid al-Adha, “Festival of the Sacrifice,” is a Muslim holiday commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Ishmael. Eid al-Adha is practiced by Muslims in South Asia and by Muslims all over the world. Senior Nizar Naitlho began the night’s event with a Muslim prayer, the opening of the Quran, “Bismillah I’rahman I’rahim…”
Diwali, pronounced Dipawali, is a Hindu holiday known as “the Festival of Lights.” Traditions vary by community. For instance, in Nepal, opposed to India, Diwali is actually called Tihar. However, the essence of the holiday is universal: the victory of good over evil.
Diwali is practiced over five days in which you worship something different each day. For example, on the third day, which is the most important, Hindus worship cows, very sacred in Hinduism, and the goddess Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity.
Another tradition on the third day is to do “bhailo,” where girls go out and sing and dance for their neighbors. Junior Joshan Niroula, who danced during the event, says it can relate to “caroling during Christmas.” In fact, Joshan says she and many other students appreciate the Eid-Diwali dinner because it gives them a reminder of home. “I don’t really get to go out and play bhailo anymore here (Worcester), but being able to dance and have fun with other people kind of helps keep the tradition alive for me…events like Eid-Diwali…brings a little piece of home back to us.”
Joshan participated in one of my dances or songs performed during the evening. The performances varied and sometimes intertwined with Muslim and Hindu culture. Western culture was also sometimes put into the mix. For instance, while the music played in background as people performed, the soundtrack would transition into a remix in which you would hear a modern day Western song as it gradually transitioned back into the traditional songs.
In between each performance, the hosts would reflect on the previous event and then introduce the next one with some jokes. They made comments like, “that dance was dope,” or “this song sounds like it’s going to have swagger…” followed by laughter in the audience.
One of the host speakers, Junior Ishan Chatterjee, who also danced in one event, says that what makes Eid-Diwali special every year, and why it is “Clark-ish,” is because “the celebration is sort of an amelioration of Muslim and a Hindu religious event…” and “that the event was not just performed by a diverse group of people, but it was also planned and set up by people of different backgrounds.”
Ishan also mentioned that one of his favorite parts of Diwali is the food. Traditional cuisines for the holidays were given out during intermission, such as chicken and rice. Lokma, a Turkish sweet, were given out at the end as people got together to congratulate their friends who performed and took pictures together.
Many people deserve thanks for their contribution, but someone who deserves in particular recognition is Tahmeed Reza Chowdhury, president of SASA. He played a big role in managing his last Eid-Diwali and left on a high note giving way for a great future. “I couldn’t asked for a better sight on my last Eid-Diwali,” he said. “We had so many members new to the event…With the crowd we received, we are seriously considering making it an even larger event in the future!”
Special thanks to Tahmeed and to everyone at Clark that helped make the Eid-Diwali dinner of 2015 a big success!