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Students gathered Monday in the Mather Faculty Deans’ Residence for a celebration of Diwali hosted by Harvard Dharma, the Hindu students association on campus.
Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is an Indian religious tradition celebrating the “victory over evil and light over darkness,” per Dharma co-president Navin Durbhakula ’25. Mather Faculty Deans Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan and Amala Mahadevan opened up their home to host the festivities.
The Diwali celebrations kicked off with a puja — an act of ceremonial worship in the Hindu tradition — for the Hindu goddess Lakshmi. Harvard Dharma then served a dinner prepared by the seniors in the organization, following its annual tradition.
Durbhakula and fellow co-presidents Karina Mahida ’25 and Suhanee Mitragotri ’25 said they were excited to host the event.
“All the joy everyone has coming out of the event is what made it all worth it, seeing all this hard work come to fruition,” Durbakhula said.
Varshini Odayar ’23 said preparing for the senior dinner made this year’s celebration especially memorable.
“The seniors come together and cook this meal, and I think it's just really wonderful to cook with your peers and spread the love and joy of Diwali,” Odayar said.
Akila Muthukumar ’23, an event organizer, added that hosting this year’s celebration fully in person was a highlight.
“Having watched the past three years of seniors, though not completely virtually, just carry on this tradition and remembering how excited I was as a freshman to watch them leading the prayers and cooking all the food — it was so great to be on the other side.”
Some students said familial tradition played an influential role in shaping their personal meaning of Diwali, with Dharma carrying these traditions into life at the College. For Mahida, Diwali is “a very family-oriented event.”
“Growing up, pujas and kathas, and even just singing bhajans, was such a family-oriented thing, and so being able to share that with the Harvard community was really, really nice,” Mahida added.
Beyond Diwali, Dharma board member Kavya Shah ’23, said “Dharma has probably been the most formative social experience” for him at Harvard.
“I myself am not a Hindu, I'm Jain, but I think that the community has been so open to me and has been a great place for me to explore my faith. So I'm just happy that I can give back,” he said.
Mitragotri said she has made her closest friends through the organization.
“It's a place I have always felt safe and a place I've always felt loved,” she said. “And I really hope to foster that feeling and community for all the freshmen who have joined Dharma this year and for all the other people who continue to join Dharma and celebrate with us.”
—Staff writer Rohan Rajeev can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @rohanrajeev_.
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