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Dharma, Harvard’s Hindu students’ association, hosted a prayer service and home-cooked dinner on Saturday evening in celebration of Diwali, the five-day festival of lights celebrated throughout South Asia.
Though Diwali began on Nov. 4 this year, Dharma typically hosts an annual celebration and dinner the weekend after, inviting students from across the College to enjoy food cooked by seniors in Dharma, share stories, and partake in puja, a devotional prayer service.
This year’s event, which attracted around 150 attendees, was organized by Dharma seniors Nikita Jindal ’22 and Palak V. Shah ’22.
Jindal said one of her favorite parts of Dharma’s Diwali event is that it brings together South Asian students across Harvard, even those who are not typically as involved with Dharma or who celebrate the holiday in different ways at home.
“Oftentimes at this part of the year, people are really, really missing home. And I think this is just a really warm and welcoming space for people to just come together and celebrate something that they all have in common,” Jindal said.
This year’s festivities were particularly meaningful following over a year of online Dharma celebrations, the organizers said.
“One of the moments that just really struck me about how wonderful it was to be back in a space together was when every person in the living room was chanting the puja together,” Shah said. “It just felt so collective and so beautiful. And that’s something that you can never really replicate on Zoom or online.”
Dharma hosted the event at the Mather House Faculty Dean residence. Mather Faculty Dean L. “Maha” Mahadevan said he enjoyed seeing students from all different backgrounds come together for the festival.
“It’s just wonderful that our students have this way of celebrating what is important to them,” Mahadevan said. “It’s wonderful that they also get people from all over South Asia, but not only South Asia.”
Tara V. Nadella ’24 said one of her favorite parts of the celebration was the presence of “welcoming” faculty like Mahadevan, in addition to the students.
“They’re so warm and they’re just the kindest people,” Nadella said of the faculty attendees. “It’s special to also have the faculty be a part of it.”
Some Dharma seniors began preparing the home-cooked food for the event the night before. Shah said preparing dinner was one of the most fun parts of this year’s Dharma celebration.
“It was so much fun, we were playing music, taste testing each other’s dishes, FaceTiming our moms,” Shah said. “It was nice to just work together and get this done.”
Anushka S. Jetly ’24 said she is grateful for the work that Dharma organizers put into the event.
“At home, we never did a whole lot, but it’s nice here to see there’s such a community that’s getting so involved,” Jetly said.
—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.
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