Diverse multiculturalism was the focus of “Vichithra” Sri Lankan Night 2014. Ayubowan Sri Lanka Organization held “Vichithra” on September 20.
Instead of giving a basic overview of the history and facts about Sri Lanka, the presentation took the audience through all the months of the year, from January to December. Sri Lankan students explained what life is like in Sri Lanka for every month, including several celebrations Sri Lanka has throughout the year. As stated by the event’s emcees, 25 holidays are celebrated throughout the year in Sri Lanka.
The event began with the lighting of a ceremonial candle by several members of SCSU faculty. Throughout the presentation were traditional dances and demonstrations of Sri Lankan traditions and games. One dance involved three women dancing with fire, a tradition that is part of the festival of lights that occurs in September.
At one point of the presentation a volunteer participant was selected from the audience to learn and demonstrate several Sri Lankan traditions. One of the traditions they presented was boiling coconut milk in a clay pot. The boiling over of coconut milk is a sign of prosperity for the rest of the year. The stroking of another’s head is also a sign of blessings for the new year.
The highlight of the presentation might have been the Esala Perahera, a parade that is held in July. Esla Perahera is a festival with a procession that pays homage to the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha. Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka in third century B.C. A video was shown that told the story of Buddha and the origins of Buddhism.
The students replicated this procession of Esala Perahera, which included a lit elephant model, whip crackers that traditionally signal a king’s entry, and stick dancers, which the emcees said are popular in festivals throughout Sri Lanka.
The presentation concluded with a Sri Lankan Christmas song that was sung by several Sri Lankan students. Several different religions are represented in Sri Lanka and although the majority follow Buddhism, Christmas is celebrated nationwide.
Following the presentation dinner was served. The menu included saffron rice, plain white rice, spicy chicken curry, chicken curry, grated coconut sambol, lentil curry, devilled potatoes, papadam, and deep fried dried red chilies.
“We wanted to experience culture,” said sociology major Josefina Abdullah and public relations major Jonathan Wong. Abdullah and Wong also said they liked the theme of the presentation, that it wasn’t boring because of the dancers and the chronological presentation of each month of the year.
Hasith Dissanayake, one of the organizers of the event said it took the organization ten days to put the event together. The students put together all of the costumes, props, and decorations. The students also made all of the food in the Garvey Commons kitchens.
Ayubowan Sri Lankan Organization secretary Iresna Herath, a mass communications graduate student, said she likes having cultural nights because it “makes people’s lives different.”