Saturday, Nov. 4, the South Asian Student Association (SASA) celebrated Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, with its annual performance. This year’s celebration, comprised of dance, song, acting and tons of food, told the origin story of the iconic Indian landmark, the Taj Mahal.

The skits detailing this history provided interludes between dance performances, but they also served to educate viewers on an important piece of Indian history. The story of the Taj Mahal included all of the historical drama Trinikids may have come to expect: royalty, romance, 14 children and O-Phi fraternity members testing out their comedic chops. A sparse voiceover of the dialogue accompanied the O-Phis and other participants miming the story of emperor Shah Jahan and his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Mahal — spoiler alert!  — died while giving birth to their 14th child and a mourning Jahan decided to build a mausoleum in her honor, calling it ‘Taj Mahal.’

“Every year we have a meeting in the spring semester before Diwali brainstorming ideas for the theme,” wrote Aroosa Ajani, president of SASA, in an email interview. “In my time here we have have many themes: provinces of India, Bollywood by the decade, the story behind Diwali and this year’s story of the Taj Mahal. We try to incorporate elements of South Asian history and culture to entertain and educate audiences.”

Top Naach, Trinity’s Bollywood dance crew, performs at the celebration. Photo by Amani Canada

These skits definitely delivered both, as audiences laughed throughout the mostly light-hearted scenes, but left the auditorium with a more intimate understanding of the Taj Mahal. Not surprisingly, the night mostly comprised of fast-paced, Hindu-inspired dances. However, a welcome amount of singing was present with vocal performances by the Trinitones and Aamuktha Karla.

“Having song, dance and vocals was great because we got to see a variety of talents,” Ajani wrote. “It is important to me to incorporate the Trinity community into our show, and being able to use different performance mediums only makes our narrative stronger.”

Part of what made the night so enjoyable was this variety aspect, with multiple elements of performance at once. Along with the part-educational, part-humorous acting from the O-Phi’s, the song performances diversified an already entertaining night of dance.

“I feel like we had a very good mix,” said Sneh Lalani, public relations chair of SASA and co-captain of dance team Top Naach. “We tried to connect with the audience and we tried to have a fusion by involving different people, like the O-Phis.”

The majority of the music involved in the performances was from Indian artists, with the exception of the Trinitones’ a capella performance. Both of the Trinitones’ performances were in English, which called attention to the group’s singularity a little too much. While performed and received well by the audience, the performance was also a reminder of how rare nights dedicated to honoring minority culture traditions are at Trinity. For a small campus, the variety of performances dedicated to Indian culture was a welcome change, but in the future this could be better reflected by songs with more solid roots in the culture.

“From the first time I participated I understood the show’s ability to bring people from many different backgrounds together and celebrate South Asian culture,” Ajani said. “I have been so honored to serve on the board and as president to continue and growth this tradition. It is a great time and it brings our campus community together. While it’s a large production to take on, the final product is priceless every year.”