A universal language: Student group hosts India Night

Guests adorned in colorful cultural wear attended first night of Diwali at India Night

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen reporter

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To a crowd in kurtas, saris, lehenga and churidar, India Night 2019 began with a lighting of the lamps to commemorate the first night of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights that began on the same night of Oct. 27.

After, the advisers and members stood for both the Indian and U.S. national anthems. Before the performances, the Indian Students Association President Pritha Agarwal gave a speech thanking the audience for coming.

“Art is a universal language that unites us,” Agarwal said.

ISA planned India Night 2019 for students, both Indian and non, to discover the rich and diverse cultural history of the country through food, dance and music.

The night saw performances that ranged from the traditional bharata natyam and garba dances and tabla playing to modern Bollywood style dancing and guitar playing. Also, a short film was shown based on famous monk Swami Vivekananda’s 1893 Chicago speech.

“Because U.S. is such a diverse country, there’s people from different paths and cultures everywhere, and it’s always exciting to learn about people from different cultures,” Agarwal said, “and India Night is a way for us to showcase our culture to everyone else in Pullman.”

The performances, differing in region and form, each touched upon a different part of India to show the “unity and diversity” of the country, Vivek Amrutiya, one ISA’s vice presidents, said.

One performer, junior civil engineering major Shyam Rajasegaran, showcased the traditional percussion instrument tabla, a pair of drums used in northern Indian music, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“There’s good food, all my friends are here,” Rajasegaran said, “and also I wanted to show what the tabla is, what classical music is.”

Brothers Shohom and Aditya Bose-Bandyopadhyay each performed a song from Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali and then, together, sang “Unstoppable” by The Score.

“Even though it’s India Night, everyone isn’t Indian,” said Aditya on why he and his brother performed an American song. “It just feels like you’re including more people. At least then everyone will be able to understand what you’re actually singing.”

Other performance highlights included garba, a festival dance, and bharata natyam, a southern Indian dance that often expresses Hindu themes and ideas, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.

In between the performances, food such as chicken tikka masala, samosa and chana masala introduced guests to regional Indian cuisine.

“I think it’s good, I think it’s improved,” said Kat Downs, attending with her husband James. “[I came because of] curiosity about the culture, and I really enjoy the people that we’ve all met.”

“Everyone encouraged us to put up this event,” Agarwal said, “and they were here until the very end to support us, and that’s something I really appreciate.”