Contrasting cultures will come together this Sunday evening during the annual Navratri and Diwali celebration hosted by Plattsburgh State’s Indian Culture and Entertainment Club.
Junior geology major and I.C.E. president Shafik Vadsariya said the event will highlight two traditional Hindu festivals by showcasing Indian food, music, dance, performances and activities for PSUC students, faculty and community members who want to celebrate and learn about Indian culture.
“What we try to bring on campus are festivals and different cultures because India in itself is a land of diversity,” Vadsariya said. “For us, it’s important that people come and understand different cultures.”
The club holds three events each semester. Its first event this fall brought attention to the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha and was co-sponsored by PSUC’s Club Al-Arabiyya and the Muslim Student Association. Tickets were $1 and all the proceeds were donated to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the field of human welfare in Iraq.
Even though Navratri and Diwali are celebrated during different months in India, the club decided to combine them and incorporate the major aspects of both, creating its second major event of the fall semester.
While it’s celebrated differently in various parts of India, Navratri is a nine-night festival in which each day is dedicated to worshipping a different god. To reflect a piece of this culture, a garba dance will commence in the Ballrooms of the Angell College Center, as the dance is traditionally performed during Navratri.
“It’s very dynamic,” I.C.E. club secretary and sophomore hospitality management major Lily Godunok said. “[There’s] a lot of movement and jumping all the time.”
During one of its weekly meetings, I.C.E. offered a garba dance lesson for its members to practice their moves before this weekend’s celebration. Guest performances will include PSUC students Safa Sheikh, Shivangi Nakrani, Sujin An and Taylor Scott. Diwali is known as the Hindu festival of lights and represents the victory of good over evil. Vadsariya said the Hindu celebration in India includes offering puja, or prayers, to the different gods of wealth, education and prosperity.
According to Hindu myth, Vadsariya said Diwali represents the day the god Rama returned to the ancient city of Ayodhya after a 14-year exile. The people welcomed him with diyas, lamps or candles, outside their homes to brighten the city.
“Everybody during the time of Diwali has diyas outside their homes, just like Christmas,” Vadsariya said. “On the day of Diwali itself, there’s a lot of fireworks late at night. It’s very beautiful. You turn your head, and you see lights everywhere.”
While the club can’t provide a fireworks display for its celebration, there will be small electric candles at the event to illuminate the same effect.
I.C.E. vice president and senior biology and medical technology major Devangi Patodiya said Diwali is like her New Year.
“We celebrate the Diwali night by burning firecrackers, worshipping gods and thanking them for the happiness and prosperity they give us,” Patodiya said. “We go to each other’s houses and wish them happy new year and their happiness and health.”
Another tradition practiced during Diwali in India is rangoli, a traditional Indian art form in which complex patterns are created on the floor using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. Last year’s Diwali celebration held a rangoli competition, where anyone could create a colorful design using thick colored powders on individual tables in the Ballrooms. The winner and the runner-up received $50 and $30 gift cards.
“Back home, it was my responsibility to do it as I love drawing,” Patodiya said. “So different people make different patterns and each of them has its own uniqueness and beauty.”
Along with the entertainment, the menu for the evening consists of chicken tikka masala with a vegetarian alternative, jeera rice, naan flatbreads, a buttermilk chaas to drink and a sweet milk-solid gulab jamun for dessert. Because last year’s celebration entertained about 60 to 70 people, I.C.E. is expecting at least 80 to 90 people this year. Student tickets are $5, and general admission is $7.
One of I.C.E.’s goals is to break the stereotypes surrounding Indian culture with events like Navratri and Diwali and help create cultural diversity.
“As much as the politics tries to divide us, we’re not exactly divided,” Vadsariya said. “It doesn’t matter what event it is. All of the people come together and celebrate. It’s basically living in harmony even though you’re different.”
Godunok didn’t attend last year’s Diwali celebration but is excited to help organize this year’s event.
“Even though we might be from different places, [Diwali] is a nice occasion to come together and celebrate something,” Godunok said.
Seeing the beauty of different cultures coming together and creating cultural diversity is something Vadsariya values with the club’s annual festival.
“All of us are a big family,” Vadsariya said. “It doesn’t matter what culture, what religion or what country you represent. Everybody’s a human being.”