The Charger Blog

Indian Student Council Commemorates Holy Celebration of Lord Ganesha

The University's Indian Student Council recently came together to celebrate one of the "biggest festivals in India.” It was a fun way for students to connect and share their culture.

September 25, 2023

By Anchal Bhatia'24 MBA

Indian Student Council e-board members
Indian Student Council e-board members with the idol of Lord Ganesha.

The Indian Student Council (ISC) celebrated a day-long Ganesh Chaturthi event at the University's Orange Campus with the goal of promoting the divine cultural presence of Lord Ganesha. One of the biggest festivals in India, Ganesh Chaturthi is a 10-day holy event celebrated with grandeur and around friends and family, where everyone gets together to worship Lord Ganesha with chants and songs dedicated to him.

Aspiring to shed light on the importance of this Indian event, the ISC invited members of the University community to be part of the celebration. Starting the event with holy chants, also known as Aarti, members present at the day-long event worshipped Lord Ganesha, presenting their offerings, and celebrating with food and music.

"Hosting the Ganesh Chaturthi event as a diverse celebration was an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Saketh Rapala '24 M.S., ISC treasurer. "Seeing students from various backgrounds come together to learn about and enjoy Indian culture exemplified the spirit of community and inclusion we hoped to create."

Rapala and his fellow council members aimed to bring together the traditions of Ganesh Chaturthi, which is focused on public engagement. The ISC was also quite happy with the event's success as they could provide a better understanding to several non-Indian students about this festival through their event.

"We were ecstatic to see the enthusiasm by Indian students on our Ganesh Chaturthi celebration,” said Rapala, a candidate in the University's graduate program in cybersecurity and networks. "Those who attended this event felt like they were back in their homes in India and were delighted to be part of this emotional and devotional celebration. As a culturally present student, I sincerely believe that more such cultural events should occur in various schools and universities in the United States as they help show the importance of traditions and help exchange more understanding between the students of varying backgrounds."

'Learn about the cultural significance'

The ISC, in collaboration with the Office of Graduate and International Student Life (OGISL), was happy to organize this celebration and was overjoyed to see the warm presence of so many Chargers at the event.

"This was my second time attending a Ganesh Chaturthi event, and I, once again, realized the importance of this event for our Indian students and how beautifully it is celebrated,” said Steve Macchiarolo, director of OGISL. "We wanted to be part of this celebration and, thus, partnered with the ISC to host this event, which turned out to be a beautiful day celebrating at our Orange Campus.

"One of the best parts of my position here at the University of New Haven is learning about the many diverse cultures and celebrations of our students,” Macchiarolo continued. "I have been honored to share in these cultural celebrations with our students, and I look forward to the many celebrations planned for this year.”

Chargers at the University's Orange Campus
The event brought Chargers together at the University's Orange Campus.

The next few months are jam-packed with events, including International Education Week, which OGISL kicks off with the Diwali celebration, followed by the Taste of Africa. Additional events include Garba dances as a part of Navratri, as well as a brand-new event on our campus, which will be the 2,500-year celebration of the Persian Empire hosted by the Iranian Student Association.

"It has been nice to see students from all parts of the world come out and learn about these cultural celebrations,” said Macchiarolo. "I encourage all members of our University community to attend these programs, as it is a great opportunity to increase awareness and learn about the cultural significance these events have for our students."

'Joy, color, and pageantry'

Volunteering at the Ganesh Chaturthi event was among the best experiences for Pari Swapnil Shah '25 MBA.

"Being an OGISL volunteer for the Ganesh Chaturthi event was such an incredible experience,” said Shah. "It created a sense of home that I was missing dearly as a newcomer. I eagerly wanted to be a part of this event as a guest and volunteer because when I was back home, helping people with the decorations and arrangements during this festival made me feel closer to the Lord. I hoped to relive that feeling by volunteering, and my decision was a hundred percent worth it."

Shah says she was fulfilled by seeing the turnout of this event through people's participation and enthusiasm. As a new student, Shah enjoyed her volunteering experience and would love to be part of such events again.

"To my fellow Indians, cherish your culture,” she said. "To non-Indian students, embrace the diverse cultures that make our campus a unique and welcoming place.”

"Attending events from various cultures offers a unique opportunity to experience the world's richness while on campus."Soumya Soumya '25 MBA

Owen Quantick, assistant director of OGISL, observed the participation of several faculty members who were happy to learn more about this traditional event and stated how sharing cultural knowledge is vital as it helps bring people together, breaks down barriers, and shows each other's backgrounds.

"One of the most important aspects of university life is to share our cultural experiences and beliefs,” he said. "We witnessed a fantastic event at the Orange Campus as our students celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi with the help and support of the University and the Indian Student Council. It was wonderful to observe this cultural festival's joy, color, and pageantry in a relaxed and welcoming environment. While it is vital to support our students celebrating their own cultures, it is just as important for us to share it with them and to inform and encourage others to grow their lived experiences.”

'Embrace and support diverse cultures'

Soumya Soumya '25 MBA, who was also one of the OGISL volunteers, was happy to be part of the staff for the event and stated that she thoroughly enjoyed her experience. She felt like she was back home in India as she saw everyone dance to the songs together, share some great moments by clicking pictures, and feel relaxed and happy during the day. She says this event was a fantastic way to spread cultural awareness among peers from different nations and communities.

"The Ganesh Chaturthi celebration embraced our Indian culture and showcased our way of celebrating Indian events in a fun and inclusive manner," she said.

Members of the ISC and OGISL
Members of the ISC and OGISL at the celebration.

Soumya says she hopes to see more traditional events on campus, which will allow her new opportunities to learn more about different cultures across the globe.

"I would encourage Indian and non-Indian students to embrace and support diverse cultures,” she said. "Attending events from various cultures offers a unique opportunity to experience the world's richness while on campus. After graduation, the pressure from work may limit our experiences on campus, so I suggest everyone make the most of this opportunity to broaden their horizons of celebrating togetherness with peace and harmony.”

'The friendliness and hospitality make everything wonderful'

Mary Narouei '25 M.S., vice president of the Iranian Student Association, was also among the attendees at the event. She says she loved the atmosphere and the colorful celebration.

"Everybody was so friendly, and I made many new friends who were very happy to answer my questions about the event and the history of Ganesh Chaturthi,” said Narouei, a candidate in the University's graduate program in electrical engineering. "As someone who always enjoyed watching Bollywood movies, I often saw this celebration but would never know what it was all about. I am happy to know a lot more now.”

The Ganesh Chaturthi event concluded with the immersion of the idol in the water, also known as Visarjan, to bid him farewell and with anticipation of welcoming him again next year. Traditionally, this practice is one of the major aspects of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration.

Narouei says the celebration made attendees feel at home, as everyone got together and participated in a variety of ways, which was enlightening for her.

"One of my favorite parts about the celebration was getting a Tika (a holy mark of anointment) on my forehead," she said. "Do not miss such cultural events, as they help us understand much about the people in our community. ISC hosts several events that display India's cultural presence, which is extremely fun. The music, the colors, the dances, and most importantly, the friendliness and hospitality make everything wonderful."