Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Hindu Club has been around for three years, but this year it looks to be more of a campus presence than ever. The club wants to realize its full potential as what President Devi Ramkissoon ’06 calls “a safe space for people to learn about and talk about Hinduism even if they’re not Hindu.” As such, “our activities go far beyond just practicing our religion–we’re very interested in dialogues and interfaith discussions.”
“The idea started during my freshman year,” explains Devi, “when my friend and I were pretty religious and we felt there was no outlet for us to practice our religion. Things started well but fell through because we just weren’t getting enough support. In our sophomore year we held a faculty panel of Tri-Co professors about the evolution of Hinduism, and what it means to Hindus in this modern day and age. We didn’t have a large turnout, but the people who showed up were all earnest about the history of religions, and all agreed that there needed to be more discussions of the type, so that was encouraging.”
Devi studied abroad in the spring of her junior year, but in the fall the club held a dinner for Diwali, one of the most important Hindu holidays. “Lots of the participants weren’t Hindu, but it was nice to get a feel for who was interested in the religion.”
This year, the club hopes to generate enough interest and support to be able to carry on after the graduation of the founding members. One of the projects already in the works is a panel co-sponsored by the Muslim Students Association on the similarities between Hinduism and Islam. “Since they usually come from similar ethnic backgrounds, the backlash since 9/11 and the London attacks has affected both groups,” explains Devi, “and through this event we hope to form a more cohesive community to deal with the backlash.”
Devi hopes to hold bimonthly readings from the Gita, a Hindu holy book, and to “celebrate holidays this year more than ever.” In addition to the Diwali dinner, “there’s a huge holiday coming up around October Break, the Navrati festival.”
The club also plans on teaming up with the Student Progressive Christians for a special “Pizza and Parables,” where most of the religious groups on campus will join together to eat pizza and discuss the similarities between parables from all religions.
The Hindu Club may be small, but its members hold “a strong belief that we should continue. We have a group of really dedicated people who help to push things along, and one of our main goals for this semester is making the campus more aware that we’re an open group to which everyone is invited.”