Bigger than Bollywood

India Night shows diversity of culture

The sounds of laughter and conversation greeted each person as they walked into the 27th annual India Night April 17.

Whether conversations were in English or Hindi, India Night was a time for celebration and education about the home country of about 150 South Dakota State students, the largest population of international students on campus. 

More than 500 people filled the Volstorff Ballroom for the event, with some people standing in corners because there weren’t enough tables.

As the Indian flag hung on one side of the stage and the American flag hung on the other student, faculty and community members celebrated the intersection of both cultures throughout the night. The diversity of Indian culture was also showcased through food, music, dance and trivia.

“India is not only one culture, but lots of culture and it includes influence from Western culture also,” said Devansh Singh, Indian Students Association president.

Conversations stopped as the first performance of the night started, filling the Volstorff Ballroom speakers with music and Geeta Varnekar capturing the audience’s attention with her performance of Ganesh Vandana, a prayer for a prosperous life.

After Varnekar finished her performance, it was time for food. The meal included multiple traditional Indian dishes with SDSU ice cream for dessert.

Dishes included tandoori chicken, a popular Indian delicacy; chicken curry; chana masala, a Punjabi, spicy chickpea curry; matar paneer, a North Indian recipe with peas and paneer in gravy; veg biryani, a dish with seasoned rice and vegetables; raita, a side dish with yogurt and vegetables; naan bread and gulab jamun, deep fried donut-like balls soaked in sugar syrup.

More than ten performances followed the meal, including musical performances as well as solo and group dance performances. These performances were Jamie Dittrich’s favorite part of the night.

“They were really entertaining,” said Dittrich, an early childhood education major. “I liked watching the style and the way they danced in their culture.”

There were two musical performances during the night featuring Sangay Bhutia in the first performance and Ravi Dutt, Kanishka Jaysooriya, Dilumina Welagedara, Ryan Sailors and Briana Treml in the second performance. The dance performances throughout the night featured traditional and contemporary dances, emphasizing the diversity of Indian culture and Western influence on Indian culture.

One of the traditional dances performed during the night was the Bharatanatyam performed by Veda Varnekar and Ruchi Dubey. The Bharatanatyam was established in the third century BCE and represents fire in the human body and is considered to be the dance of the Indian god, Shiva, according to Viraj Patel, a host for the night.

Ann Fennell, a faculty member in the Plant Science Department, said the music and dancing was her favorite part of the night. The difference in dance and dress were important to her because they showed how diverse the culture is.

“I loved the music and dancing—it was beautiful. It was happy, exciting, colorful and so well done,” Fennell said.

Fennell particularly liked the last dance of the night, which represented four different cultures in India. Shikha Singh, Shuchi Smita, Anyesha Sarkar and Navjot Kaur performed four different songs from each of their representative states in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Punjab.

According to Dubey, also a host for India Night, it was outstanding they were performing these songs because they “represent the idea of unity with diversity” and blend four different cultures in India.

“We tried to show all the culture including all the parts—not just from the north or south, but we tried to cover all the parts from India,” Singh said. “It was a whole package all together, so we tried our best to show the Indian culture, not just go for Bollywood or something, but just to show our culture.”