This past weekend, students, professors and families from all across the Muhlenberg family came to the Event Space in order to take part in the celebration of the Diwali Festival, which is an Indian cultural tradition that dates back thousands of years.
The event was hosted by members of Top Naach, Muhlenberg’s Bollywood dance and cultural club. The organization is based on a common goal to bring an increased cultural awareness to Muhlenberg through the presentation of South Asian performance styles and traditions. In the case of Diwali, the festival of lights, a sizable crowd was faced with the welcoming sights, music and cuisine of India. The walls were decorated with banners and lights that represented symbols common in the Indian celebration of the Diwali festival.
Among the many delectable homemade Indian dishes being served at the Diwali festival, one could expect to find triangular samosas, paneer and Mango Lassi drinks. The Wood Dining Commons staff assisted Top Naach in making Indian and Thai food for the event.
In addition, Top Naach themselves gave a performance called “When Maasti Met Deewani”, which featured six songs, “Silsila Yeh Chahaat Ka,” “Humble,” “Punjabi Clique,” “Khalibati X Malhari,” “Gaandakanzhagi” and “MIA”. This segment featured choreography by Top Naach members Nisha Godbole ‘20, Roshni Patel ‘21, Michelle James ‘21, Michelle Rajan ‘21 and Ruhani Singh ‘23, which showcased ornate South Asian costumes and passion and detail on the part of the performers and choreographers. Top Naach members used the space and their abilities to give a remarkable impression of the aesthetics and precision of a modern Bollywood dance performance in India.
Between acts, there were opportunities for socialization, setup and exploration of the many Indian staples being showcased in the Event Space. There was also cultural trivia spread out throughout the afternoon, testing guests’ knowledge on the cultural symbols that had been explained by the speakers from Top Naach earlier on in the presentation. Audience members were quizzed on items that could be found in the Event Space, such as light fixtures, cultural symbols and food items.
The members of Top Naach taking part in the performances of the day were very passionate about sharing this important holiday with this campus for a number of reasons, but mostly to open the eyes of people who may not yet be exposed to this tradition and to create a fun and educational medium in which to share ideas and open the doors of Muhlenberg’s diversity scene just a little bit wider.
International Student Ruhani Singh explained that, “[Diwali] is a festival about lights, but also about how goodness clashes with evil. It was originally celebrated three weeks ago in India, but it’s so important to us and so many of our upbringings that it was vital to share with the school.”
Singh goes on to explain that this event harbors a kind of nostalgia for herself and many other members of Top Naach. She said, “This celebration of Diwali feels like home, and we’re all so thankful for this opportunity.”
Singh was joined by fellow Top Naach member Simone Kacal ‘23, who went into more detail about the significance that the Diwali Festival celebration has on the South Asian community on campus.
“So many Indians and South Asians get grouped together,” says Kacal. “The truth is, there’s so many diverse and amazing cultures in that part of the world, and this event opens communication between cultures, which is amazing.”
Other speakers from the group explained over the course of the event that Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists all occupy South Asia, yet have so many different cultural traits, and are often misrepresented as minority groups in the United States, which is why, as they explained, events like Diwali are enriching opportunities for even as small a section of society as a college campus. On the flip side, the speakers made it very clear that Top Naach is also about fun and games and emphasized that the festival gives people in India a reason to party and celebrate an important tradition with family and friends.
All in all, Top Naach presented a groundbreaking event that combined an inspiring look at a millennia-old cultural festival and its components. Furthermore, it was an opportunity for people to enjoy the time they spent together and help grow the initiative towards diversity on campus.