The Indian American Association’s 2006 Diwali celebration was met with high praise Saturday evening.
Diwali, the Indian New Year celebration, is a festival of lights symbolizing the victory of righteousness over spiritual darkness.
The program started at 6 p.m. with appetizers. The traditional Indian meal was catered by several participants’ mothers and two local Indian restaurants: Sitar, 6004 Kingston Pike, and Kashmir, 711 17th St. SW.
“(The food) is in a class of its own. I’ve never tasted so many flavors at once,” Tasha Fernandez, a senior in electrical engineering, said.
Appetizers were in such demand, the line had to be shut down so the show could start on time.
The performance opened with a lighting ceremony. Dancers in traditional Indian clothes placed lit candles on each edge of the stage. The Indian and the American national anthems followed. Each song was followed by loud cheers from the audience.
The program continued with a mixture of old and new traditions to celebrate both rich Indian heritage and modern influences.
Throughout the show, a series of video-taped, MTV-based skits were played. One skit, called “Date My Mummy” was based on the show “Date My Mom.” The main character, Jonathan Maharaj, a junior in microbiology, went on dates with several Indian mothers to see if he’d like to date one of their daughters. The skit included everything from a Caucasian Indian mother to the winning daughter being played by a boy. The skit was met with enthusiastic laughter from the audience.
Another skit included a spoof of the shows “MTV Cribs” and “Wild ‘N Out.” All the skits included lighthearted jokes about Indian culture, as well as insults and punch lines meant to make the audience chuckle. The result was a loud applause and much laughter from the crowd.
The dance performances also reflected a mixture of old and new.
The first group dance, “True Life: I’m a Bhangra Dancer,” combined traditional Indian dances set to Indian songs and modern rap music.
Dancers included IAA members, some from Manthan — the Indian Students’ Organization at the university, and groups from Mercer University in Macon, Ga., East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tenn., and Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
All the dances combined modern and traditional dance and musical styles. The dance performed by the Georgia Tech group even showcased modern and traditional dance styles side-by-side.
The atmosphere was relaxed and informal. Between performances, IAA members gave updates on the UT-University of South Carolina football game and talked candidly with the crowd. The IAA also held a raffle, which gave out a TV and a DVD player.
“It wasn’t like I expected it to be because it’s more of a celebration than a ritual. I thought it was going to be formal, but it was a lot more interesting and interactive,” Megan Bethmann, a junior in accounting, said.
The Diwali celebration was held in the Clarence Brown Theatre. All 500 seats were sold out in addition to 100 seats at a discounted price to accommodate demand. Attendees came from a mix of ages and ethnicities.
Sarah Keedy, a sophomore in engineering, said the event has a future.
“I’m very impressed with the size and diversity of the event. The Indian American Association has done a good job promoting Diwali to all different ethnicities. I think Diwali will continue to grow in the coming years.”
Dipti Chhajwani, a sophomore in college scholars and IAA secretary, said she was excited by the turnout and called it a very successful night.
“In the beginning, we didn’t know what a success this would be because we’ve never done something like this before.”