Annual Diwali festivities light up the ARC
On Oct. 21, the UC Davis Indian Graduate Student Association kicked Diwali festivities into high gear when it brought the vibrant colors and luminosity of the Indian festival of lights to the ARC Ballroom.
According to IGSA’s website, the organization caters to the “Indian and Indophile population at UC Davis.” Plant science professor Sham S. Goyal started the organization in the 1980s with the goal of bringing the Indian community closer and celebrating its culture.
Diwali, or Deepavali, is an extremely significant and widely observed event in India and many Indian communities globally. This Hindu-originated event is marked by the lighting of diyas, or clay lamps, to celebrate the triumph of good over evil.
IGSA President Satyabrata Sarangi, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in electrical and computer engineering, detailed the extensive planning behind this popular event.
“We started our preparation around August,” Sarangi said. “I submitted the application on Aug. 5, and then it took a month for overall approval [since] we had to talk to [the] venue and food [catering]. We have our IGSA board meeting every week, […] so we started to think about who to invite. We thought [to] invite some of the renowned artists from [the] surrounding areas, […such as] LA and [the] Bay Area.”
Preethi Indian Cuisine provided catering for the event, which included boxes filled with spicy chana masala, a chickpea curry, vegetable korma, a coconut-based mixed vegetable curry and vegetable biryani, a mixed rice dish.
“This is Diwali, so people love to eat good food,” Sarangi said.
The lineup for the evening totaled nine acts — Sunatya, Rita Sahai Ji and her accompanists, the IGSA Girls Dance Group, Ayal Vishnitzer, the Mona Khan Dance Academy and Bombay Jam, Miran Solanki and the GSM Dance Group.
As the melody of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” flooded through the speakers, audience members looked around, bewildered at the relationship between the famous pop star and the Indian festival. However, their confusion was short-lived as Sunatya’s performance included a fusion of the beats and style of classical Indian dance, Bharatnatyam. The group was followed by Rita Sahai Ji, accompanied by the tabla — a South Asian drum — and sitar, an Indian string instrument.
Jhankaar, UC Davis’ only co-ed South Asian a cappella group, gave a performance that had the audience clapping along. The group fuses Bollywood music with South Asian and Western music.
“We are an a capella team, so basically all the sounds that we make are all vocal,” said Kirthana Srikanth, Jhankaar’s co-captain and a fourth-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major. “We have no instruments [on stage], and we just come together, compose and produce the music ourselves and compete around.”
Srikanth and co-captain Daivik Dinesh, a third-year computer science and engineering major, both said performing was a “great experience” and emphasized the responsiveness of the crowd to their act.
Members of the Mona Khan Dance Academy and Bombay Jam, marked by their colorful sashes and gregarious personalities, provided a different interpretation on the typical Hindi movie dance moves. The group of women soon had the stage overflowing with people after inviting audience members to participate in a demo filled with a medley of popular remixed Hindi songs.
Ayal Vishnitzer, a Los Angeles-based composer, treated the audience to an eclectic performance on the electric guitar. The renowned musician performed for the first time here at UC Davis and was met with an enthusiastic round of applause.
“The initial goal was [to] invite some of the performers to perform some Indian dance or Indian music, and then we thought of [going] toward the Western [side of] things, so we invited Ayal,” Sarangi said.
Toward the end of the lineup, solo artist and current UC Davis student Miran Solanki, a third-year design and computer science double major, sang three well-known Hindi music songs.
“I performed at a number of […] other IGSA events before,” Solanki said. “[The audience members] were amazing. They all came to support, and I knew a lot of them, so it was great to see everybody having a great time. The highlight for me [was] the last song where I saw people clapping and dancing.”
Sarangi said that overall, the event was a success based on positive feedback from the audience.
“We had a feedback form [which] everyone submitted […and] most of the people liked the event,” Sarangi said. “There [were] some […] technical glitches with the sound, […] but otherwise [the audience] was super happy with the performances, and it was a variety of performances.”
The IGSA hosts Diwali Night annually and plans to hold next year’s event in early October 2018. Its next major event, Holi, the Indian festival of colors, will take place in early March 2018.
Written by: Priyanka Shreedar — firstname.lastname@example.org