Attempting to find the link between Bollywood and St Andrews proved an interesting task. For me, Bollywood connotes a rich film history and vibrant imagery of intricate dance sequences. Whereas St Andrews features grisly medieval history and quaint, beautiful streets that are nonetheless tinged with an eternal grey. On the surface, the two don’t go hand in hand…that is, until the Sanskrit Society held Bollywood Night at the Union to mark Diwali. Diwali is predominantly associated with Hinduism, yet also marks a special significance within the Jain, Newar Buddhist, and Sikh religions. There are different historical accounts and significance according to each religion and region of India. The Goddess Lakshmi, of wealth and prosperity, is traditionally associated with Hinduism. Although followers of Jainism may similarly offer prayers for Lakshmi, it is Mahavira, the twenty-fourth spiritual successor, who is primarily associated with Diwali, and within Sikhism, the festival celebrates the release of Guru Hargobind, the sixth of the tenth Gurus. However, the main commonalities amongst all religions include the triumph of good over evil, the victory of light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
Stage 601 was transformed in an apt homage to the Festival of Light. Tealights were arranged on circular tables, with colourful Rangolis adorning the floor. Attendees ranged from Bollywood enthusiasts to those with connections to Indian heritage. They suitably arrived in a plethora of vivid shades, with dress ranging from traditional lehengas and kurtas to Indo-Western wear. The music inevitably played multiple iconic songs with Sheila ki jawani and Suraj duba hai blasting from the speakers. Yet during the event, a professional dhol player also provided upbeat rhythms for the partiers. The dhol is a traditional double-sided drum which is a common feature of Southeast Asian celebrations. The inclusion of a dholi was a welcome surprise.
The night was great fun and a great opportunity for people of all backgrounds to join in and appreciate Diwali. However, the importance of such an event in encouraging all parts of the student experience cannot be understated. St Andrews is a wonderful place to study, and the international aspect of the university is often emphasised on Open Days and glossy brochures. But for many students in the beginning months of joining the St Andrews student body, culture shock is real, and, though hardly out in the sticks, the Bubble’s relatively rural nature understandably takes getting used to for those used to hopping on the metro. There’s a real sense that such events go a long way in recognising and appreciating different cultures. One of my friends, who is of Indian heritage, remarked upon how amazing it felt to have the familiarity of much-loved Hindi songs being played. And in, a perfect homage to the night, a first-year student noted “It felt like home away from home”.
The top hits played:
Sheila ki jawani
Laila mein Laila
Kar Gayi Chul
Sooraj duba hai