The Wang Center Chapel was quiet and still on Wednesday night as Distinguished Service Professor S.N. Sridhar, the director of the Center for India Studies, taught the crowd of students, faculty and family about the celebration of Diwali.
“Diwali symbolizes the victory of light over dark, good over evil, and knowledge over darkness,” Sridhar read from his presentation.
He stood neatly at the front of the chapel with his gray short haircut and trimmed mustache.
“We want to do this event in a way so that things would be meaningful,” Sridhar said, later that night. He said that the Pooja Ceremony is for guests and students to understand the celebration and how significant it is to the Indian culture.
Sridhar told stories of the incarnations of Hinduism’s god, Rama, Krishna and Vama and the popular goddess of wealth, Lakshmi.
Everyone received electronic candles and the Light Procession began. The group walked to the Student Activities Center and back to represent lighting up the campus, as families bring light into their homes during Diwali.
Guests returned to a vegetarian dinner and party at Jasmine. The restaurant was decorated with Indian fabrics and a DJ was playing modern and classic Indian music.
Rajesh Golani, a graduate student studying computer science, attended Diwali at Jasmine on Wednesday night with a friend.
“Diwali in India is kids running around outside with firecrackers,” Golani said. “Everyone comes to your place to wish you a happy Diwali, a happy new year. It’s something you have to feel.”
Golani said he misses his family in India and getting to eat all the different sweets he loves.
“Here that feeling is just in this room,” he said. “but when you go to India it’s this feeling everywhere.”
His friend Laraib Malik laughed to herself, saying, “They say it’s better in India, but I like it here! I get this food!”
The Jasmine food court’s Curry Kitchen organized a traditional vegetarian dinner with two desserts and a special orange sharbat drink.
Simran Juneja, a freshman international student from India, attended Diwali at Jasmine with a group of friends and was very happy with her meal.
“Everything here is much better than the food we usually eat on campus,” Juneja said. “I’m a pure vegetarian so we end up cooking a lot.”
She and her friends were on campus for Diwali and they decided to wear Indian clothing all day and celebrate their first American Diwali with a homemade traditional meal.
“Somehow we managed to make a pani and we were so proud of ourselves,” she said.
Juneja’s friend, Simran Singh, a freshman biology major, explained that pani puri is a popular street food in India that is a hollow bread crisp filled with chickpeas, chutney or potato with flavored water.
The group consensus was that they miss celebrating with fireworks. The students laughed about how fireworks are illegal in New York, and that they would have to call the proper authorities to use firecrackers safely.
The line for henna tattoos was lengthy throughout the night as people of all ages wanted to sport a decorative hand or two. Forum Doshi, a freshman international student, was on the line reminiscing about Diwali with her family in Ethiopia and India.
“Diwali is a family get together,” Doshi said. “ It’s four days of giving gifts, singing, dancing and Indian music.”
Doshi and her twin brother Fenil had their first holiday away from home this year, but they said they enjoyed it with friends here at Stony Brook.
The guests headed out after Stony Brook’s Taandava, a classical Indian dance group, performed. Overall the guests were impressed by the groups beautiful dances and outfits.
Aiswaria George, a junior health science major and member of SBU Taandava, was raised as a Christian, but loves celebrating her roots.
“Dance is the way we keep in touch with our Indian tradition and culture,” she said.
Children expressed how much they enjoyed the performance to the Taandava group at the end of the night.
“The food was really good tonight – Mumbai style,” Sridhar said in between addressing his guests. “The samosas and pan were excellent.”
The event was sponsored by the Center for India Studies, Curry Kitchen, Campus Dining Services, the Faculty Student Association and the Chapin Apartment Resident Association.