North Texas Daily

Diwali lights up UNT

Diwali lights up UNT

November 23
01:16 2010

By Taylor Jackson / Staff Writer –

Saffron, white and green graced the Lyceum stage at 5 p.m. Saturday when the first performer, an eighth grader from Flower Mound, began Bharatanatyam.

Her name is Veena Devaraju and her traditional dress came alive with her dance. The lights reflected off the material, making her fluid dancing seem like the flame of the diya candle. Her movements were timid across the stage, her face telling the story.

Video by Katia Villalba / Multimedia Editor

The Traditions

Diwali is a Hindu holiday that celebrates the conquering of good over evil and is known as the festival of lights. Hindus light diyas that are symbolic for the holiday. Indians also make sweets and shoot off fireworks during the four-day celebration. The India Students Association of UNT has hosted Diwali festivals for years, and this one was played to a full Lyceum.

Start of the Night

The association started off the night by playing both the Indian and American national anthems and giving awards to university staff. Gilda Garcia, vice president of Equity and Diversity, gave an acceptance speech about the event, saying that Diwali “enriches all of us here at UNT.”

“We are committed to not only making everyone feel welcome, but letting them celebrate who they are,” she added.

Niranjan Tripathy of the finance, insurance, real estate and law faculty started the Diwali festival by lighting the diya on the right side of the stage, and a boy sang as the stage darkened to start the night.

A second grader from Denton performed a folk dance dressed in gold and purple with her hair braided down her back. She had white flowers wrapped in her hair and a headpiece she had to balance. There was a cloth on the floor that she lowered herself to pick up with her mouth. She missed it the first time, but with the audience cheering her on, she tried again.

Four men played Bollywood music with the audience singing along. Afterward, the tabla, two small hand drums that make a tinny sound, was played. The performer talked about this instrument being played 16 beats per measure as opposed to Western instruments being played four beats per minute.

Singing

Half of the performers sang and each group took a different approach. Ramam Devaraju and his group blended the songs together and got the audience to join in singing and dancing while a boy did the moonwalk and danced onstage.

The Pakistani Student Association had a group that sang and the guitarist began the set by saying, “Hope you enjoy. If not, you’ll have to stay and listen anyway.”

During the set, the group brought in several more vocalists to harmonize. The guitarist told the audience to sing along to the classic songs, unless they couldn’t sing, which he said he couldn’t help them with.

Instruments

A group of music students played jazz standards.

The Chingaari group from Texas Woman’s University used every inch of the stage. The 10 women on the stage were only a fourth of the entire group, which aims to be the biggest Southeastern Asian all-female dance troupe in Denton.

One of the last performances was from a group of dancers who showcased Indian cinema from 1950 through the present. It ended in a shower of confetti and applause from the singing crowd.

Event host and molecular biology graduate student Gauri Khandekar summed up the evening.

“You feel happiness,” Khandekar said. “You don’t think it.”

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