On Saturday, Nov. 15  the Indian Student Association (ISA) hosted their annual Diwali cultural event and was greeted with their biggest turnout yet. Diwali is the festival of lights that celebrates the victory of good over evil and is a custom across India. The ISA incorporated many of the traditions practiced during Diwali as well as some modern takes to keep up the energy.

As an audience member for the evening I can confirm that Diwali 2014 was a great experience for all in attendance. The evening’s performances were breathtakingly beautiful and impressive.  It was a night of entertainment and unwavering excitement. Afterwards, I was able to sit down and speak with a few of the people that were hugely involved and responsible for making this event a huge success, as well as chatting with others in attendance to get their takes on the evening. The general consensus was that it was an amazing time and I personally can say that I’ve never been so captivated by an event like this; Diwali 2014 was mesmerizing.

The evening began with an introduction from the co-hosts Suvrajyoti Kar and Mahad Jamil along with a traditional lamp lighting that was followed by a Nagada dance performed by twin sisters Bhumi and Dhara Patel. Nagada incorporates both Bollywood and Gujarati folk dance styles. It was a great way to open the cultural event and set a high energy atmosphere for the rest of the evening.

Afterwards, Dr. Harish Sunak, a University of Rhode Island’s professor of electrical engineering, took the stage and performed a soulful rendition of a popular Indian song that a majority of the audience seemed to recognize. This was followed by the men of ISA, including the co-hosts of the night, dancing in a well-rehearsed, high energy Bollywood performance.

Shortly after, students from the College of Pharmacy demonstrated a contemporary Bollywood dance that had the audience on the edge of their seats. Next, the women from ISA came out to perform a “sizzling Bollywood dance at a new level with true elements of modern dance” as the program for the event described it.

The Center of Nonviolence & Peace Studies slowed down the evenings rapid pace and added some variety to the evening with their peaceful ukulele performance dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. Introduced by the Center of Nonviolence & Peace Studies, the ISA men took the stage again in an electrifying way, demonstrating breakdancing to the Michael Jackson classic, Billie Jean.

After tremendous applause, the undergraduate students in ISA performed a medley of dances. Following the high energy medley of both the men and women,  ISA came together to demonstrate fantastic Bollywood dance moves that had the audience cheering.

Next, a breakdance group from Providence performed popular street dances and demonstrated moves with varying degrees of difficulty.

The final performance of the evening was a Sri Lankan Indian fusion with a twist that incorporated elements of Bollywood and modern dance that truly captured the theme of the night – diversity – which was exhibited in every performance.

Diwali 2014 demonstrated the diversity that the University of Rhode Island prides itself on.

Suvrajyoti Kar, president of the ISA, and master of ceremonies for the evening, spoke very highly of the cultural program, thanking everyone involved for the work that made the evening possible. Kar explained how there was a lot of preparation that went into it, with a lot of people working both on the stage and behind the scenes, all and all it took them four weeks to plan and prepare for. For Kar, the evening was a success and he proclaimed it “fantastic” and a “great time.” This was his fourth year involved with Diwali and he looks forward to the University of Rhode Island keeping up the tradition.

A lot of people were involved in making this evening the success that it was. Ajinkya Pawar, vice president of ISA, worked diligently on the sound and lighting for the evening making sure everything flowed together seamlessly from one performance to the next. Suvrajyoti Kar and Mahad Jamil did a fantastic job at filling the normally awkward silence while transitioning, with humor and appreciation as well as excitement for each and every performance. The performers themselves were electrifying and the audience reciprocated the energy as they erupted into applause with the culmination of every performance.

It was apparent the amount of work that went into preparing for the evening not only through the rigorously choreographed dance routines but through the way the stage was set and the confidence the performers demonstrated.  Everyone knew what they were doing and their hard work really paid off.

After the performances of the evening were finished and the event concluded, there was a traditional Indian dinner catered by the University of Rhode Island Dining Services. The meal was flavorful and sumptuous, just as one might expect from a traditional Indian meal. Also there were vendor stands set up displaying and selling traditional clothing and intricate jewelry for the audience to purchase.

For Dhara Patel, one of the dancers, the evening was “perfect, just perfect.” This is Dhara and her sister Bhumi’s first year at URI and through the Indian Student Association they have met many people and made new friendships.

Bhumi explained that the event was important in that it did an excellent job in bringing together the community. Dhara regarded Diwali 2014 as amazing. She said it gave her the experience to make new friends and discover her own hidden talents. The twins laughed and reminisced that before practices for the event began many of the dancers never thought they would or could dance, which if you sat through the performances does not even seem feasible because all of the performers were phenomenal.

Diwali 2014 was a great success and managed to bring everyone involved closer together, it kept with tradition but also was able to keep the audience captivated and entertained the entire time. It was truthfully a fantastic celebration of tradition and culture.