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The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Diwali custom conveys spiritual journey

Diana Abou-Saleh
Sports & Opinion Editor

Kalachandji’s Hare Krishna temple on Gurley Avenue in Dallas became the dwelling of religious chants, upbeat music, colorful lights, multicolored Lehengas and an abundance of food and enthusiasm for the Indian celebration of Diwali Oct. 30. The event focused on one of the five days of religious celebration known as “The Govardhana Puja.”

Diwali is a Sanskrit word for “Row of Lights.” One of the rituals of Diwali is the lighting of lamps to signify the triumph of good over evil. The Diwali period also ushers in a new year on the Hindu calendar. During Diwali, followers wear new clothes and spend time with family and friends eating sweets.

Govardhana Puja celebrates Lord Krishna’s lifting of Govardhana Hill. Lord Krishna, a Hindu deity, renders the classic hero model that defeats all vice.

Nityananda Chandra, one of the organizers of the event, said, “Diwali celebrates Sri Rama’s victory over evil and the lights that are lit are inviting Sri Rama, God, into our life. The theme of that event is that if we take shelter of God, God fully looks after us.”

According to Dr. Patricia Dodd, English and world literature professor at Brookhaven College, students should be more exposed to an array of cultures and beliefs. “Knowledge opens the minds and hearts and leads to the gateway of compassion,” Dodd said.

Dodd invited her students to attend the Diwali festival for extra credit. “It is imperative to learn about a variety of cultures to truly become a functioning member of a greater world community,” Dodd said.

Ten Brookhaven students, all from Dodd’s classes, attended the event. Student Jamie Baadsgaard said she was very glad she got the opportunity to experience Diwali. “I learned more about Hare Krishna and I got to interact with the followers at their temple,” Baadsgaard said.

Baadsgaard is enrolled in Dodd’s world literature class. She expressed gratitude toward her literature teacher for inviting her to the festival.

“At the temple, there was a very warm and friendly feeling between everyone,” Baadsgaard said. “I’m sure it was clear that I was a visitor, but I received nothing but welcoming smiles and patience. By the end of the night, I wanted to run up to the nearest person and hug them.”

When arriving at the temple, individuals were asked to take off their shoes before entering. Once inside, participants took part in a spiritual chanting ceremony.

Participants walked in a circle surrounded by “gifts” to gods and sacred representations of deities.

After the mantras, participants were invited to see the Ramayana play. The Ramayana is considered one of the greatest epics among Eastern cultures and it functions as a guide to day-to-day life.

The story tells how Prince Rama was banished from the kingdom along with his wife, Sita. In relation to the festival, participants commemorated Rama and Sita’s return to their home. So, by means of a well-structured play, individuals experienced the journey of Rama while simultaneously becoming cognizant of a different way of life.

“I kept an open mind about experiencing a different religion I didn’t know very much about,” Baadsgaard said.

Following the play, refreshments were provided along with an 8-foot-wide chocolate cake.

The Kalachandji’s Hare Krishna temple organizes 20 festivals a year, all of which are open to the public. “Every festival is a means to glorify God and to invite others to do so as well,” Chandra said.

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