Indian festival aims to shed a light on culture

Kelly Petryszyn

Dancing and food unite diverse crowd

Diwali was a rush to the senses.

On the stage in the Student Center Ballroom on Saturday night, attendees saw a display of swirling saris and other colorful costumes. As the dancers rhythmically moved, guests heard the clanging bells on their costumes and stomps as feet smacked the floor.

The Indian Student Organization hosted the event for the university and community. Diwali, or festival of lights, is a holiday in India that is observed by several religions and celebrates the triumph of good over evil, said the group’s president, Nithya Ramalingam.

The organization collected donations for Child Rights and You (CRY) America, which works toward restoring basic rights to underprivileged children, mostly in India.

The event wasn’t so much about celebrating the holiday itself, but rather an opportunity for Indian students to share their culture with Kent State through dance and food, Ramalingam said.

“The world is becoming a smaller place,” she said. “You can relate better to others if you know where they come from.”

Sophomore pre-med major Joshua Kim isn’t Indian, but he’s a member of the group and has learned some Indian dances through the organization. He said he likes how the dances vary from energetic group dances to precise solo dances.

“It puts a new light on things,” he said. “It’s really nice to know about other people’s culture. You’ll end up enjoying yourself.”

The evening began with traditional Indian cuisine including rice, butter chicken, samosas, chutney and more.

A variety of performances followed dinner with dancers from Kent State, the University of Akron and Youngstown State.

Dancer Swati Vasireddy, from Youngstown State, was part of the classical fusion performance, in which moves from the Indian dance, bharatanatyam, were mixed with modern.

“Any opportunity there is to dance, Indian people do,” she said.

Vasireddy said Indian dance is very expressive, and each movement has meaning. For example, looking up symbolizes God, and moving arms in a flowing manner represents water.

Abhishek Anand, who takes a flight technology class at Kent State and is from India, said he came to the event because he wanted to meet more Indian people. He said Diwali is different in India. Indians celebrate Diwali with firecrackers, giving others’ gifts and eating a lot of food, he said.

“In India we party hard,” Anand said.

Contact diversity reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected]