Students Celebrate Diwali and Eid with Dinner, Dancing and Dupattas

Flickering candles lined the Elson Courtyard leading into the Underwood Room where vibrant dupattas, or scarves, covered the brick walls like tapestries. The aroma of traditional Indian foods, ranging from palak paneer, a dish consisting of Indian cheese in spinach, to jalebi, a dessert made by frying sugar-soaked dough, filled the air.

Upholding 24 years of tradition, Andover’s Indian and Pakistani Society (IndoPak) celebrated the holidays of Diwali and Eid al-Adhawith a dinner and performances last Friday in the Underwood Room.

“At first, [the Diwali-Eid celebration] was just small,” said Raj Mundra, who started the club in 1991 and serves as the current faculty advisor of IndoPak. “It was in my apartment, and then it grew, and it’s grown in different ways in different years. But I was really proud of how the celebration was tonight, and it’s really great to see any student celebrate their own culture and heritage, but it’s especially meaningful to me because my heritage is Indian.”

Diwali is a Hindu Festival of Lights celebrating new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil and light over dark, according to a handout provided at the celebration. The festival lasts five days and can be celebrated by setting off fireworks, lighting small candles and creating colorful patterns on the floor with colored powder or rice. Other religions, including Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism, celebrate festivals of light on the same day.

Eid al-Adha is a Muslim holiday that falls at the end of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting, and commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his own son to to Allah (God). It is traditionally celebrated by sacrificing a sheep or goat to feed the poor.

“Although celebrating completely distinct events, Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, and Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday commemorating the Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to God, are both times of great happiness for followers. Hindus and Muslims also find a sense of community and identity across borders during these celebrations,” said Nadha Illikkal ’17, a member of IndoPak.

Members of IndoPak shared stories about what Diwali and Eid meant to them. Illikkal recounted celebrating Eid in India this past year. Illikkal had been in Ponnani, Kerala where there were so many Muslim people that they performed morning prayers on the beach because it was the only location that could fit the large crowd.

“Celebrating Eid in India this year was particularly special for me, because it was the first time I was able to celebrate with my extended family, grandparents, cousins, and all. It also marked the first time I felt part of a large-scale Muslim community, compared to the smaller Muslim environments in America,” said Illikkal.

The Diwali-Eid celebration also featured several performances. The first dance of the night, choreographed by Sharan Gill ’16, was set to a remix of the Dutch-born, Indian singer Imran Khan’s popular song “Bounce Billo” and a song from a Bollywood film. The nine girls dancing all wore Indian clothing, ranging from salwar kameez, a traditional South Asian outfit consisting of loose pants and a long top, to anarkali, an adorned ankle-length dress. The clothing added visual interest to the shoulder pops, flowing hand movements and jumps that comprised the choreography.

“I really like how we all bonded over the practices… It was a great way to go back to how I was back home because in Pakistan we used to dance to all the Bollywood songs all the time. Doing it here was more special because you’re in a different country, but you’re going back to your own heritage and culture” said Saadiya Lakhani ’17, a performer.

The dance was followed by a vocal performance of “Marugelara” from Mihika Sridhar ’16, Co-Head of IndoPak. “Marugelara” is a song from the Carnatic music system of South India. Carnatic songs typically praise a god. Sridhar tapped her hand on her lap to keep the rhythm as she sang a cappella.

Sridhar wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “‘Marugelara’ itself is essentially the composer addressing Lord Rama. The song praises his divine form in Tamil, a South Indian language. I like this song a lot because of the Raagam, or scale, that it’s sung in. It’s very lilting and beautiful.”

The final performance of the night came from the male members of IndoPak. Each dancer performed choreography by Reuben Philip ’18 and also had a solo. The dance was set to “Dhoom Again,” from “Dhoom 2,” a popular Bollywood movie.

Anjunae Chandran ’18, a performer, said, “[Our dance] had a mixture of traditional Indian dance moves and our own taste. The reason that I joined in was to reconnect with my heritage at [Andover]. I generally have been less connected to my Indian heritage while I am at [Andover], so doing the dance was really great.”

Editor’s Note: Sharan Gill ’16 is an Arts and Leisure Editor for The Phillipian.