Diwali festival in chapel a first for campus Hindu community

The University Chapel will host for the first time in its 80-year history an official celebration of the Hindu festival of Diwali at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8.

A harvest festival often considered to be the Hindu New Year and the most important holiday on the Hindu calendar, Diwali will be observed at the chapel with devotional music, sacred readings, classical Indian dance and a traditional Hindu worship service.

Vineet Chander, the University's first coordinator of Hindu religious life, sees the chapel celebration as a way to raise awareness about Hindu spiritual life while also giving Hindus a way to observe the holiday.

"It is a metaphor for the way that the faith has come to be welcomed into America's pluralistic mainstream," Chander said. "We’re seeing, perhaps for the first time in such a profound way, a Hindu holiday being acknowledged in the spiritual heart of a leading institution in the country."

In past years, student groups at Princeton have organized Diwali celebrations that took place at such venues as the Frist Campus Center and the Fields Center.

Princeton senior Manav Lalwani, who is among the students who helped plan the Diwali event, said the chapel service is "an opportunity to display a very important aspect of Princeton's religious diversity in a rich and beautiful way."

According to Chander, while the chapel was founded as a Presbyterian house of worship, it has since grown to become "a truly ecumenical and inter-religious worship space" for students and the wider Princeton community, as described on the website for the University's Office of Religious Life.

"The increasing diversity of Princeton's student body is bringing a wonderful diversity of religious traditions, as well," said Alison Boden, the University's dean of religious life and the chapel who appointed Chander Aug. 15.

Chander said many Hindus hope awareness about Diwali has begun to increase, with such events as the chapel celebration.