Triumphant Light

Triumphant Light
Triumphant Light

The all-School Diwali celebration was bigger than ever.

The School’s second annual Diwali celebrations surpassed even the organizers’ expectations, with nearly 250 people in attendance. Hosted by the Parents of Asian Students (PAS) affinity group, the main event, held Sunday, Nov. 5, included meticulously crafted decorations, an array of food, student performances, and a master class in Bollywood Zumba. PAS Co-Clerks and leaders of the all-School Diwali project Nitisha Kharbanda P ’29 and Hiral Shah P ’31 worked with School partners; community organizations; and student, parent, and faculty groups across divisions to create a memorable day. 

“Diwali holds a special place in my heart and is particularly cherished by my family,” says Kharbanda. “What makes Diwali truly special is its essence of new beginnings and renewal. It marks a time for reflection, and an opportunity to connect with family and friends.” Diwali, she says, symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness. It’s a holiday that resonates with the School’s Quaker values as well. “I really feel strongly about how spiritually interconnected Diwali and Quakerism are in letting the light lead and protect us,” says Shah. “The history of Diwali is how light defeated the darkness that was enveloping the world. Quakerism lets the inner light shine and lets the light lead you to the best you can be.”

Throughout the afternoon, the beats of the dhol, a double-sided drum, got everyone dancing. Students also performed specific dances that ranged from classical to folk to Bollywood. Meanwhile, thanks to a collaboration between the PAS and the Upper School’s photography club, student photographers captured the celebration through their lenses. Additionally, PAS partnered with the PA Arts Committee for a special installation of diyas—small candles that, when multiplied, create a stunning visual effect as the backdrop to the holiday. And it wouldn’t be a Sidwell Friends event without service: The celebration doubled as a book drive for School partner Comfort Cases. The day ended with a live station making pani puri—a delicate, breaded sphere filled with tangy water—which was a hit among attendees. 

In the days that followed, Diwali celebrations rippled through each division of the School. The Lower School held an assembly, a joint effort by PAS volunteers and teachers, featuring a welcome song, a Diwali film, a flash mob bhangra dance, a dholi (drummer), and videos of families sharing their unique Diwali celebrations. The Middle School’s South Asian Student Association gave a presentation following its Meeting for Worship; while the Middle School administration organized a dance performance to present the colors of India. The Upper School’s Asian and South Asian Student Associations held their own celebrations and were instrumental in creating awareness about the weekend event. And, with the help of Meriwether Godsey, the entire School was treated to an Indian lunch.

“By celebrating Diwali, we are embracing the diversity that defines us and creating lasting memories,” says Kharbanda. “We look forward to continuing the tradition every year.”


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