Oct 252009

Three young women danced on the Lory Student Center Theater stage together.

Their bodies moved according to three different styles –/katchak, one of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, tap and jazz. And though they were each their own character, all three moved to the same beat, celebrating the same thing: the Indian holiday Diwali.

Dance, song and celebration took place Sunday night as 21 performances ranging from prayer songs, Bollywood dance and traditional Indian dances were performed as part of the 10th annual Deepanjali celebration.

An audience of about 400 people, many dressed in traditional Indian clothing, filled the LSC Theatre Sunday afternoon as members of the India Association of Northern Colorado performed dances and songs. Deepanjali, put on through IANC, celebrates Diwali or Deepavali, also known as the festival of lights.

Diwali is a five-day long celebration in October known as the most important festival celebrated in India. Mohini Kaur, owner of India’s Rice and Spices store in Fort Collins, described Diwali as India’s Christmas.

“It’s a time to show love and affection, and it’s the biggest festival for us,” Kaur said. “People share their feelings, gifts and sweets.”

Throughout the different parts of India, Diwali signifies different things.

In North India, the celebration honors Lord Rama’s homecoming after defeating Ravana and his coronation as king, while Southern India celebrates Diwali as Balipadyami, a day to remember an ancient king, Bali. In Gujarat, the festival honors the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, and in Bengal the festival celebrates the goddess Kali.

In a welcome speech, President of IANC Sanjay Agarwal credited India as one of the most diverse and rich heritages, as exhibited by the dancing performances.

Dancers adorned themselves with headdresses, a variety of traditional Indian clothing as well as body paint on their hands and feet for decoration. Many of them wore a band of bells on their ankles, creating a jingling sound with every step, with each dance having its own unique feel and movements.

Chief Guest, District 4’s Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey helped start the celebration with the lighting of the lamp.

“(Diwali) is a celebration of good over evil, light over dark,” Markey said. “The festival of lights is beautiful both symbolically and aesthetically, and I’m very honored to be here.”

The first dance was the Saraswati Vandana, a prayer for the goddess of wisdom and learning, Saraswati. Sarawati Vandana was then followed by Bharathanatyam, a dance portraying a young woman searching for her love, expressing fear, anguish and then extreme joy when she finds love.

Like much of Indian dancing, hand movements are a major part in the dance, offering an intricate and unique form. With every dance posture having a specific meaning, Indian dances depict the expressions of life and keep Indian traditions and stories alive.

Ben Manvel, City Council member, D-1, spoke, saying that he was honored to have a strong Indian presence in Fort Collins.

“We’re here to celebrate India’s culture, and that heritage is alive in Fort Collins. It’s wonderful having so many people of Indian heritage,” Manvel said. “Fort Collins is better because you are all here.”

Diana Campbell, a guest at the event, attended Deepanjali for her second time.

“It’s wonderful. Something that’s really fun is (India’s) festivals,” Campbell said. “They have very beautiful traditions, and it’s great to recognize that.”

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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