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Festival of lights event ends Hindu Awareness Month

Approximately 40 people attended the event at the St. Paul Student Center.

Hindu followers and observers commemorated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, Saturday at the St. Paul Student Center.

Diwali is a five-day-long holiday of lights marking the return of the Hindu Prince Rama to his city, Ayodhya, in ancient times.

Approximately 40 students, faculty and community members attended the event, which featured lecturers, a traditional dinner, prayers and cultural dances.

The event ended Hindu Awareness Month at the University. The Hindu Student Society and the Vedic Cultural Society organized the events, which consisted of speakers, video documentaries and several presentations on worldwide Hindu communities.

According to a press release from the Hindu Student Society, members said they hosted the events to spread awareness about their culture and principles to others.

Hindu Student Society President Vishard Ragoonanan said it’s a challenge to attract people to a lecture series, but these events have attracted numerous Hindu followers and other cultures.

Preeti Joshi, a Hindu Student Society member and graduate student, helped set up the event.

“People come here to share an experience with other devotees to their culture,” Joshi said.

Many Hindu families in the community attended the event, allowing some children to experience this part of their culture for the first time, Joshi said.

First-year technology student Sukruti Ponkshe ate dinner and listened to the lectures.

“The cultural connection, of course, brought us out,” Ponkshe said.

Saturday marked the third day of Diwali, a time considered the darkest night on the Hindu lunar calendar when followers light festival lights in memory of Hindu Prince Rama. On the day, special prayers are also said to Hindu goddess Lakshmi.

During the rest of the holiday, followers pray to deities until ending the fifth day with a ritual to honor the relationship between Hindu brothers and sisters.

Subhash Kak lectured at the event Saturday about the relevance of Hinduism in an age of science. Attendees later ate a traditional Hindu dinner.

The evening also included traditional Hindu and Nepali dances of men and women seeking romance.

Adityanjee, a professor with the department of psychiatry at the University, also spoke at the event.

“Today, on the day of this celebration, I stand before you wearing black,” Adityanjee said.

“I am mourning the death of religious tolerance in India.”

Adityanjee was referring to Hindu religious leader Swami Jayendra Saraswati, whom the Indian government arrested on murder charges.

The Indian government alleges Saraswati took part in a murder of a former accountant of his Hindu social welfare program, Adityanjee said.

The professor said he is skeptical that Saraswati, a 71-year-old religious leader and diabetic, with no passport to flee the country, would attempt such a deed.

Instead, his arrest is an example of the systematic persecution of Hindu religious leaders by a government run by communist and atheist political parties, Adityanjee said.

Adityanjee encouraged students to write and petition for Saraswati’s freedom to the Indian prime minister.

Diwali marks the return of the Hindu Prince Rama to his city Ayodhya. Rama was exiled by the request of his father’s favorite wife, for her son to be ruler.

Upon Rama’s return after a 14-year-long exile, Ayodhya’s ancient citizens greeted him with lights, Ragoonanan said.

Another reason for the celebration is the killing of the evil king Narkasura at the hands of Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu, Adityanjee said.

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