Welcome to the Hindu prayer room. This room is a space where Hindu students can perform worship services and meet for small cultural events. It is open to students during the week for prayer on an individual basis. On most Wednesday evenings during the semester worship services – called pujas – occur at 7 pm. These services are run by the Hindu Students Council which is an undergraduate student organization that aims to promote an awareness of Hinduism and Indian culture within the Yale and New Haven community. The worship services vary according to the Hindu festival calendar. On a non-festival week the prayers are mainly to Ganesha, the elephant headed god who is said to remove obstacles in our path and to the goddess Saraswati who represents learning and is therefore the appropriate primary deity for a university.
Other recurring events hosted by HSC and the Chaplain’s office include the Chat, Chaat and Chai study break. Students are treated to popular street vendor snacks called chaat and chai which is, of course, spiced tea. The two major festivals hosted by HSC are Diwali Puja which will be on November 6th this year and Holi, which happens at the end of April. Diwali includes a puja, lighting sparklers on Beineke Plaza, an Indian dinner and then entertainment by Indian cultural groups. Holi is a spirited outdoor celebration of spring which involves celebrants flinging 400 pounds of colored powder at each other.
There are about 200 Hindu undergraduates and easily three times as many post-doc, graduate and professional students at Yale. Our goal is to reinforce a sense of community, self-identity and comfort to these students when they come to our programs.
Asha Shipman is the Director of Hindu Life for Yale University. Appointed by the University Chaplain, she advises the HSC Board and serves as a resource to Hindus at Yale as well as to the broader Yale-New Haven community.