The University’s Indian Student Association hosted a variety of dance and musical performances for this year’s India Day — the club’s biggest event of the year. The celebration honors South Asian culture within the University community by showcasing art created by its students.
India Day is a fifteen-year old tradition. Members of the club are invited to perform by school year, followed by performances from sister clubs such as Ektal, VKA, Sharara, Sitaare, Spicmacay HooRaas, and DiShaan. Shreyal Gandhi, ISA president and third-year College student said that Spicmacay — a new sister organization — also performed this year.
Rithvik Gundlapalli, former ISA president and fourth-year College student, said India Day is like a big amalgamation of students’ years and organizations. He said the organization hopes to connect members with their cultural roots.
“Every single class [year] bonds through the production of a big dance performance that each class does and puts on with a bunch of sister organizations,” Gundlapalli said.
ISA took this year’s theme — and bonding among the members — to a whole new level by having a Mehndi, commonly known as Henna, ceremony the night before the event took place. Mehndi ceremonies are typically held the night prior to Indian weddings as a way of wishing the bride good health and prosperity.
In addition to being a showcase of South Asian cultural pride, India Day marks the transition of ISA executive leadership from one year to the next. It’s also an opportunity for graduating fourth-years to say goodbye.
“The fourth years always cry at the end of the event because it’s like their last big ISA event,” Gundlapalli said. “We just felt like we had accomplished a lot.”
Following the performances, the club provided traditional South Asian cuisine for dinner. Students, faculty and parents shared the meal and reflected on the dances and musical performances of the evening. Busing for students to the venue from Old Dorms was provided.
Another change with this year’s India Day is the expansion of cultural representation. Third-year Commerce student Rithika Nistala said the chosen theme was more inclusive of the different traditions of North and South India.
“This year we’ve grown in our inclusivity,” Nistala said. “We were able to highlight people from different regions and their ethnic wear before the fashion show.”
This year’s India Day also offered another new addition — a service project. Gundlapalli said the club hosted a raffle in which all event attendees were encouraged to participate by buying tickets.
“We got a couple hundred dollars on top of the service money that we raised throughout the year to donate to a service organization in India [Ekal],” Gundlapalli said. Ekal works to empower rural and tribal communities in rural India.
Each year has a different theme and this year’s was My Big Fat Indian Wedding. Gandhi, who made the final selection, said she got the idea while watching the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding with her family. She began planning the theme in February of last year, when she was elected.
No matter what year, though, leadership team members say that planning the event was a tremendous bonding experience for ISA members, making fourth years’ departure even more emotional.
“Starting April 1, all the way through this past Saturday, every day I would be working on schedules and board tasks, and we had hours of meetings on a weekly basis,” Gundlapalli said. “It was just a very valuable experience because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for a whole class to get together to practice dancing and have fun like that.”
India Day is the ISA’s biggest event, but there are a few more opportunities for members to unite before the year ends, including a Law School Advising session April 26th.