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Student orgs to host event celebrating both Diwali and Hanukkah

Students celebrate Diwali with sparklers at last year’s celebration. Credit: Courtesy of Praneeth Madhu

On Saturday, two worlds will collide in an interfaith celebration of Indian and Jewish culture at the Ohio Union.

The celebration, called the Festival of Lights Diwali Hanukkah Banquet, will bring together members of the Indian and Jewish communities to celebrate the principle of good overcoming evil. The event will be the first ever to combine the Indian Dharmic celebration of Diwali, or Deepawali, and the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah at Ohio State.

The event was conceptualized by two groups — the Hindu Youth for Unity Virtues and Actions, and the David Project, an affiliate of Ohio State’s Hillel, a Jewish student organization.

“Our main motivation for this event was that Ohio State is such a beautiful place because there’s so many different diverse groups on it and there’s so many different kinds of people, and every group wants others to learn about it to create awareness,” said Praneeth Madhu, a second-year in neuroscience and president of Hindu YUVA. “To have an interfaith celebration — an event with multiple cultures — helps all these diverse groups come together to really show that we care about everyone here.”

Madhu, along with members from the David Project, wanted to celebrate the two holidays together not only because they occur close to the same time, but also because they embody similar principles and values.

Diwali is a holiday occurring all throughout India, and encompasses many historical stories, ultimately celebrating light over darkness, Madhu said.

One of the stories is that of King Rama, who returned to the land of Ayodhya from defeating an evil king named Ravana after a 14-year exile.

“The tradition was when he was coming back, they would light the street with lamps,” Madhu said. “So ‘Deepawali’ literally means ‘ a roll of lamps.’”

Similarly, Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire, an empire that persecuted Jews and forced them to worship Greek gods.

“It’s a holiday based on overcoming struggles, overcoming adversity, and really being true to your values,” said Jack Spero, a second-year in biology and intern with the David Project. “So, I think the same type of ideas and concepts that are in Hanukkah are also represented in Diwali, with overcoming and celebrating.”

The event isn’t the first time Hindu YUVA and the David Project have come together. The two organizations partnered last semester in an event celebrating the Hindu New Year and Passover.

“The purpose is to keep building the relationship that both groups have, really learn even more about each other than we already know.” Spero said.

The banquet will be celebrated with food, two speakers explaining the significance of both holidays, as well as performances from both the Indian and Jewish sides of the celebration. One of these will feature the group Inaayat, doing a traditional dance called the Kathak.

“[Dancing] is important for the festival because usually in the [Diwali] tradition there would be tons of performances, everyone would get together and it would be like a big festival,” Madhu said. “So we’re just trying to recreate that nostalgia and keep on those traditions.”

After the festivities in the Union, the event will continue outside the Wexner Plaza where there will be fireworks, hot chai and donuts.

“Our intent for the event is to rally both communities, so we want to see as many people from the Indian community there, as many people from the Jewish community, and also people who are not affiliated with those communities, but want to learn about the culture, the religions, and the festivals that are going on during this time,” Spero said.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday and is free for students. RSVP is available at go.osu.edu/light

 

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