Oxford University India Society (OIS) and Hindu Society (HUMSoc) led the celebrations for Diwali last week by hosting various events. Other colleges and the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies also held their own celebrations to mark the festival.
Diwali is known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ (from Sanskrit: Deepavali, meaning ‘row of lights’) and it is the most important festival of the year for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. It took place on Thursday 4th November 2021, but often celebrations last the whole week.
The festival marks the beginning of a new year and the triumph of good over evil. The most common narrative of Diwali is in Hindu mythology; it is the day when Lord Rama returns home to Ayodhya with his brother and his wife Sita, after 14 years in exile and after having defeated the demon king Ravana.
For Sikhs and Jains, there are also other reasons for Diwali celebrations. Regardless, it is a festival that celebrates family, new beginnings, and the triumph of light over darkness.
Common Diwali celebrations include lighting lamps and candles around the house and on the street, often accompanied by fireworks and family celebrations. The return of this and more open, communal celebration after Covid has been particularly welcomed.
Oxford India Society organised a Diwali Dinner last Friday in Christ Church College’s Great Hall. It was a night of Indian food and sweets, musical performances and attire.
India Society’s president, Jay, told Cherwell that “it was a huge success with a lot of demand,” with Christ Church College entirely full.
Many more informal events were also planned to celebrate Diwali: two Bollywood BOPs at the Varsity Club have been hosted, as well as bhangra classes, a popular style of Punjabi dance, and Bollywood film nights.
The Student Union also hosted a Diwali Mulakaat (a large meeting along with festivities) on Wednesday 3rd November, accompanied by Indian food and music. A similar event was hosted by the Centre for Hindu Studies on Diwali itself. Unfortunately, explains Jay, the annual Diwali Ball had to be postponed to Hillary Term for various reasons. Nonetheless, Oxford has been rife with celebrations and a return to community after Covid has been strongly embraced.
Oxford students told Cherwell about how excited they were with the return of Diwali celebrations this year.
Harini Iyer, a first year Geographer at Hertford College, remarks that “I was a little worried that Diwali wasn’t going to be as communal as it is at home, but the range of events planned has allowed me to celebrate in just the same way at university”.
Geetika Kumar, a second year Medic at Corpus Christi College and Communications Officer of the Oxford India Society, told Cherwell: “We have been so pleased with how the events have been run this Diwali. Due to Covid last year, our Diwali celebrations were seriously disrupted, so it is lovely to see a return to normality and community”.
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