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Indian Culture Night at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019. 

Indian Student Association holds Indian Cultural Night in celebration of Diwali

The Ohio University Indian Student Association, or ISA, hosted Indian Cultural Night, an event that showcased the intricate dance forms of India and celebrated cultural traditions, Sunday night. 

For the first time ever, the event occurred on the same day as Diwali in India, which is the Hindu festival of lights. The event was held in Baker Ballroom, where the lights were set to various vivid colors, and strings of colorful bulbs surrounded the stage, mirroring the bright celebration of Diwali. Over 300 people came out for the celebration.

The theme of the night was Naatyam, which means “dance.” Throughout the night, performers of varying ages showcased their dance styles, from traditional forms to modern expressions. 

Prateek Kulkarni, a second-year doctoral student studying molecular and cellular biology, is the president of ISA. Kulkarni explained that the multitude of Indian dances made the theme appropriate for the night. 

“India is a very vibrant and diverse culture, and we have various dance forms,” Kulkarni said. “So we decided to showcase different dance forms from some of the oldest, like Bharatanatyam and Kathak, which are like 2,000-year-old classical dances, to some modern dance forms like Bollywood or Bhangra, which are very popular worldwide.”

Alongside the dance performances, traditional poetry was shared that depicted the joyous nature of Diwali. Through the celebration of the positive festival, Kulkarni believes his culture can be shared in a larger group. 

“Diwali brings joy and colors to everyone’s life,” Kulkarni said. “Here, the Indian community is very small and connected, so we always like to celebrate the various festivities and celebrations that India has, like Diwali.”

The tables were each set with illuminated centerpieces, consisting of flowers, elephants and water beads to incorporate the Indian culture into the decorations. Khemi Kasabwala, a junior studying pre-medicine biology, is the culture coordinator, which involves planning the overall look of the ballroom, for ISA. Through her role, Kasabwala believes her decorations make the first impression on the guests. 

“When people come to events, the first thing they see are the centerpieces, the lights and the decorations,” Kasabwala said. “I think it’s a really big part of the event itself.”

By creating this impression, Kasabwala said it helps to fulfill her creative talents. 

“I am a really artistic person,” Kasabwala said. “So I think the best part about coordinating this is being able to express the creativity that I have and incorporating that into the centerpieces, the stage and everything we do.”

The event brought together a substantial number of guests, all of whom were able to eat traditional Indian food and learn about the specifics of complex forms of Indian dance and its history. Guests were even invited to participate in a few dance moves themselves. 

Pranali Kothawade graduated from OU last year but came back to celebrate Indian Cultural Night. She has attended ISA’s events for years now, and she said that bringing people together through events like Indian Cultural Night creates a sense of belonging. 

“Celebrating together like this feels like when we are at home celebrating the festival,” Kothawade said. “And if it’s the festival of your country, then everybody knows the importance. And everybody who is not in their home or their country can feel like they are home by being together like this.”

Through this wholesome celebration, Kasabwala expressed that the Indian culture can be shared in a festive setting. 

“The main purpose of this organization is to provide insight to others about our culture, our religion and what we have to offer to the world,” Kasabwala said. “So I think being exposed to different things gives you more experience in life, and most people don’t have a chance to go outside this community, so we try to bring our community to them.”


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