Diwali dazzles packed crowds
Bright colors and sitar-infused pop songs overwhelmed the stage in Edison Theatre before crowds of more than 500 people this weekend.
Students in Ashoka danced alongside their peers in the twenty-third annual cultural production in celebration of Diwali, a traditional Hindu celebration of good’s triumph over evil.
Junior Joe Manavalan, co-president of Ashoka, was pleased and proud of this year’s show.
“I think Diwali every year, for some reason, ends up coming together, even though the process seems very disorganized looking at the week of and up to the actual event,” he said. “What I get from a lot of students who come to Diwali for the first time is that it’s an incredible experience being immersed in Indian culture for about three hours or so. So I was extremely pleased with the way the quality of the show turned out.”
The show began with a video introducing the choreographers of traditional dances like Bhangra, Chaahat and Raas, followed by the Stereotypes’ performance of the national anthem.
This year’s theme, “How I Met Your Auntie,” was reflected in a skit featuring the main characters from “How I Met Your Mother,” the television show it was based on. Lily, Marshall, Barney and Robin were all represented, and Ted was replaced with a character named Tej.
The skit’s opening scene preceded a ceremony with lighted diyas (candle set in small clay dishes), in which students welcomed the audience to the show in 14 different languages.
Other acts included a fashion show of traditional South Asian clothing, a senior dance, a classical dance, a Bollywood number and other traditional dances fused with popular music from around the world.
This year, Diwali organizers decided to eliminate the hip-hop dance and group scenes of the skit in an effort to shorten the show, which lasted more than three and a half hours last year.
Just before intermission, members of Ashoka presented this year’s selected charity, Jaipur Foot, which provides prosthetic limbs at no cost to amputees in South Asia.
Junior Meghna Kataky, co-cultural chair of Ashoka, was pleased with how the event was executed and received. One change she said has been discussed for next year’s production would be to eliminate the afternoon show.
“There has been some talk about taking out the afternoon show, just because it’s a lot of strain on the dancers, a lot of strain on the planners,” she said. “But that’s still up in the air. It’s up to the cultural chairs for next year.”
Junior Abhi Basu, co-president of Ashoka, noted that at least seven generations of Diwali alumni were in the audience Saturday.
“Yesterday was particularly special for all of Ashoka because so many alums came back, and I think that just shows how special Diwali is,” he said.
Through Diwali and other events through the year such as Holi, Ashoka aims to promote awareness of and foster appreciation for South Asian culture on campus.
Junior Sirish Veligati enjoyed the show and appreciated its cultural significance.
“I think the performance is really important because it really helps spread knowledge about Indian culture and opens it up to a large audience,” he said. “Ashoka in general is good about doing that, but I think Diwali is the biggest thing they do.”
David Ruvolo, a staff member at Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, was impressed by the performance.
“This is my first year here, so it has definitely been an exciting treat to come out here and actually just see the huge amount of culture and diversity,” he said. “It’s really just a fantastic time here.”
Sophomore Rahul Aggarwal, an usher and backstage crew member for the show, said Diwali has been a chance for him to connect with other members of the Indian community on campus.
“Even if you’re not Indian, it just brings everything together into a coherent piece,” he said. “As they say, it is the largest student-run production [at Wash. U.], so there is a way for everyone to participate in a really enjoyable show.”
While some members of the audience left at intermission due to the show’s historically long duration, most who stuck it out until the end were glad that they did.
Senior Adrienne Knapp said this year’s show was the best of the three she’s seen.
“It’s been wonderful this year. I’ve seen it the past two years and it’s a lot more energetic this year,” Knapp said. “I really like the costume changes that they did in the [Chaahat] dance. I used to dance and I really respect their ability to do that.”
Sahil Patel contributed to this report.