SHU Celebrates Diwali with a Nod to Terror Victims in Paris

News Story: November 24, 2015

What was meant to be a happy occasion took on a somber note but also greater significance as Sacred Heart University celebrated the ancient Hindu “Festival of Lights” known as Diwali on Saturday, November 14, in the wake of horrific terror attacks in Paris that claimed nearly 130 lives. The event, coordinated by graduate students, took place less than 24 hours after the terrible events in Paris.

The Diwali festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil and hope over despair, which thematically was highly appropriate in light of the Paris tragedy. If nothing else, the attack fostered greater unity among those with different cultural orientations but a common desire for goodwill, concern for each other and wish for prosperity.

At the outset of SHU’s Diwali event, organizers asked the approximately 150 attendees to stand and observe a moment of silence in remembrance of the Paris victims. They also projected a Powerpoint slide showing a crowd in the French city gathered around a large banner that read “NOT AFRAID” and commended the brave and remarkable spirit of Parisiens.

Traditionally, Diwali is celebrated with millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in India and other places across the world where it is observed. The festival preparations and ceremonies extend over a five-day period, though the main festival night coincides with the darkest new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika. Rituals include cleaning, renovating and decorating homes and offices, dressing up in new clothes or best outfits, lighting diyas (lamps or candles), participating in family puja (prayers), fireworks, feasting and an exchange of gifts.

At Sacred Heart, the occasion was observed with diyas, strings of lights, dance performances, singing, educational presentations about the meaning of Diwali, a fashion show, a playlist of Indian music spurring open floor dancing and trays and trays of Indian food provided by Paradise Restaurant of Milford. University President John J. Petillo took part in the opening ceremonies, lighting a main diya displayed on a table. Kathy Dilks, SHU’s assistant dean of Students for Graduate Student Affairs also participated, wearing a colorful sari and joining the activities.