Three thousand lamps light up the Orange Grove for Diwali

Thousands of lamps light up the Orange Grove for Diwali

The traditional Hindu festival celebrates the victory of light over darkness.
Published: October 31, 2019
Diwali 2019 participant Moxie Edwards lighting the lamps in the Orange Grove
Diwali participant Moxie Edwards lights the lamps set up in the Orange Grove.

Diwali, one of the most popular festivals in India, is a Hindu festival that celebrates victory of light over darkness. To honor diversity on campus, Syracuse University art history Professor Romita Ray (Kapoor) created an event to make luminaries and light up the Orange Grove.

“It’s just the magic of the lights. Diwali is bringing communities together.” said Ray. “It’s a very simple kind of grassroots level event. It’s not fancy in the sense that it doesn’t need to be. You want everyone to feel a little bit like it’s a festival.”

Students, faculties and families came together last Thursday at the Orange Grove to place the luminaries. A few of them made patterns with the lamps. Within 30 minutes, the grove was bright and as the sky turned dark. The scene looked surreal, thousands of lamps decorating the ground.

Overhead view of luminaries at the Orange Grove for Diwali 2019 at Syracuse University

“It reminds [me] of home,” says Rukhasar Bagwan, a graduate student at SU. “It is a family tradition and this is the time you miss home the most.”

Many students came to take pictures and enjoy food, sitting for hours amidst the lights. Some came dressed in traditional Indian attire. Elizabeth Buchanan, administrative specialist in the College of Arts and Sciences, helped Ray set up for the event.

“This is my first year celebrating and witnessing Diwali,” said Buchanan. “My daughter came from Connecticut this morning and she decided to help me with the event. She loved it too.”

This year the team arranged for recyclable cutlery and served authentic Indian food that included samosas, vegetarian biryani, boondi raita, and chai.

One of the many designs made with lights at Diwali 2019 at Syracuse University
One of the many designs that Diwali participants made with lights.

“Last year it was so much colder and we had fewer lights,” said Natalie Bono, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I learned about the festival in Professor Ray’s class. I just love the lights and the celebration.”

New people stopped by the lights and took the opportunity to learn about Diwali. By 10 p.m., all the lights in the Orange Grove were cleared. But the brightness of the evening stayed within people who came, made new friends and learned about the festival and culture.

“Good energy pulls people in,” said Ray. “It is like divine providence.”

Avatar for Utkarsha Laharia

is an architect and an arts journalist.