Candles and sparklers illuminated the night sky on Parrish Hall’s doorstep Wednesday night, as more than 200 students, faculty, and staff celebrated Diwali, the “festival of lights.”
The night began with a captivating prayer from Vivek Ramanan ’18, a native of San Jose, Calif. Aamia Malik ’18, of Davis, Calif., then briefly described the history of Diwali and its importance to Hindu, Sikh, and Jain cultures. She spoke with warmth and intention about how this festival represented the victory accomplished after a long journey, capturing the audience’s hearts.
Vinita Davey ’17, a political science major from Warren, N.J., followed with a riveting personal account of Diwali’s cultural importance. “The essence of my speech was that for a lot of diasporic Indian families like mine," she says, "Diwali is all about connecting with family that is halfway around the world.”
For the students who couldn’t celebrate with those closest to them, Swarthmore proved to be a family of its own. President Valerie Smith lit the first candle of the ceremony, followed by several more community members, until an ocean of sparks and beaming smiles filled Parrish Beach. As the silence ended, the Bollywood began, followed by a shared dinner in Parrish Parlors: chai, gajar halwa, jalebi, and more.
Mohammed Lotif, assistant director of the Intercultural Center, said that his office has been working closely with IC-affiliated student organizations to realize events like this at a much larger scale, where there’s more visibility and more community members engaged.
"The energy [at Diwali] is a testament to that," says Lotif. "The previous night, we had two consecutive events, one for Native Heritage Month and another for Pride Month. And in each instance, the energy was as powerful as this. It’s beautiful."