Geneseo students and locals filled the Geneseo Interfaith Center on Franklin Street on Saturday Nov. 12 for the annual Diwali dinner, hosted by Geneseo Shakti. Shakti translates to empowerment in Hindu. Every fall in the northern hemisphere, the Hindu festival of lights and happiness, called Diwali, is celebrated. Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists celebrate the holiday for a total of five days, termed Dhanteras, Naraka Chaturdasi, Lakshmi Puja, Padwa, Balipratipada and Bhai Duj, Bhaiya Dooji.
Diwali usually falls sometime between mid-October and November, depending on the lunar calendar. Each year, however, it falls on the darkest night at the end of the Hindu lunar month.
Bright lights decorated the Interfaith Center for the Diwali Dinner; candles, beautiful pink-flowered centerpieces and little pieces of chocolate were placed on each table in spirit of the holiday. Guests received mandalas—a pattern that symbolizes the universe in Indian culture—to color with crayons. Club members wore traditional Indian garb, like Sarees.
To kick off the night, Geneseo Shakti e-board members gave a presentation about the holiday in order to inform guests about the traditions and the meaning behind the festival of lights.
“The dinner required weeks of planning,” co-president of Shakti business administration major senior Supriya Juneja said. “It took a couple of hours to set up, a few hours to get the food and even more time to get everything ready for the night.”
To celebrate Diwali, families decorate their homes with lots of colorful lights, lamps and candles. Oftentimes, fireworks are displayed. The lights signify god and ward off darkness and evil. Additionally, families gather to have large feasts, to exchange gifts and to pray and worship god together.
The presentation ended with a clip from the TV show “The Office,” where character Michael Scott sings about Diwali to the tune of Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song. The clip lightened the atmosphere for the guests, all while fulfilling the spirit of Diwali.
A delicious dinner followed the introduction. The food aromas filled the air as guests waited in line for a plate of Indian cuisine. The cuisine consisted of Saag Paneer—otherwise known as spinach—Naan—bread—Kheer—otherwise known as rice pudding—spring rolls and more.
“The food was really delicious,” philosophy major senior Jessica Heppler said. “It was great they were able to get it catered from Rochester.”
After dinner, a few Shakti members performed a dance. “The performance was done by three of our seniors, all previous e-board members and Shakti members,” Juneja said. “They did a couple of dances to Bollywood songs.”
Dances are commonly performed to Bollywood music in India and other Hindu cultures. Guests enjoyed the energetic, impressive dance numbers performed by the seniors after the dinner.
Overall, the room buzzed with conversation and laughter throughout the entire evening. Everyone who attended took advantage of this great opportunity to eat the delicious food, to watch lively performances and to learn about how Diwali is traditionally celebrated.