November 4, 2021—Winsor’s Assembly this week was sponsored by SASA, the Upper School’s South Asian Student Alliance, who led the community in celebrating Diwali, the Hindu New Year and Festival of Light. The Assembly embodied the festive nature of the holiday.
First, SASA told a story based on the Ramayana, an ancient Sanskrit epic from which the significance of Diwali is drawn. Students acted out scenes on stage and used the projection screen for additional imagery to tell the story of Prince Rama and his wife Sita, who was kidnapped by a terrible demon king named Ravana. Sita leaves a trail of jewelry behind for Prince Rama to follow and along the way he enlists the help of the monkey king, Hanuman, to help find Sita. Eventually, Hanuman locates Sita imprisoned on an island and there is a mighty battle in which Prince Rama kills the evil demon king Ravana with a magic arrow. The whole world rejoices, and everyone lights oil lamps to guide Rama and Sita on their long journey home. During Diwali, people light lamps to remember that light triumphs over dark, and good triumphs over evil.
Following the story, students offered a reflection video—a joint project between SASA and SAMOSA, the Lower School’s Student Affinity Meeting of South Asians. Students discussed what it means to be South Asian and how they celebrate Diwali. Many students shared it is far more than just about where your family is from, and talked about what it’s like being from a rich and diverse culture with fun traditions.
Students explained that they celebrate Diwali by placing candles and lights throughout their homes—the traditional oil lamps are called diyas. One student even shared, “We light sparklers and fireworks, which always prompts the fire department to show up!” Other students talked about blasting Indian music, attending local community celebrations, and getting dressed up to take photos with family and friends.
At the end of Assembly, SASA shared that they collectively love the movie Desi Girl, and they would be dancing to the title track. Colorful stage lights came on, students twirled on stage, and the packed auditorium cheered. As Assembly ended, bangles and bindis were handed out while everyone filed out of the David E. and Stacey L. Goel Theater.
Diwali was also observed in the dining room with a special lunch celebrating Indian cuisine including matar paneer (farmer cheese in a tomato sauce), panchmel dal (five-lentil dal), basmati rice, muttakos thoran (cabbage with coconut), ama ki lassi (mango lassi), beet raitha (beet yogurt sauce), and naan bread.