For the nearly 200 Nepali students that attend St. Cloud State, maintaining their culture thousands of miles away from home can often be a difficult task. On Saturday night, an audience of 400-plus gathered in Ritsche Auditorium and the Atwood Ballroom to celebrate and promote the two main festivals in Nepali culture: Dashain and Tihar.
Dashain, which is also known as Vijayadashami, is an annual festival in Nepal that celebrates the victory of the Hindu Goddess Durga over demons. The festival lasts for 15 days and is a time of joy and enthusiasm for the Nepalese people. The other celebration, Tihar, is the festival of lights which is celebrated for five days after Dashain.
The event was coordinated by the student-ran organization Helping Nepal International, also known as HNI. HNI is a non-profit student organization that aims to give back to the Nepalese community, including relief for the earthquake that shook Nepal in April. These funds go towards helping underprivileged children in Nepal, many of which have no opportunity for schooling due to the current economic conditions. They also hold other fundraising activities such as a henna tattoo event, all in effort to help provide support for their community back home.
“HNI is a non profit organization and it is created for the safe living environment, education, and healthcare of the underprivileged children back in Nepal,” HNI president Shiwani Shrestha said.
The night began with the playing of the Nepali national anthem, followed by commencement speeches by St. Cloud State President Earl H. Potter III, and advisor of Helping Nepal International Christine Metzo. Shrestha then finalized the commencement, welcoming everyone to the event and introducing a video about the organization and how they’ve provided relief after the tragic earthquake that struck Nepal in May.
“Our students from Nepal are great leaders on campus,” Potter said, when discussing HNI’s fundraising efforts.
With over 1,000 international students from 90-plus countries, St. Cloud State has always aimed to be a destination for international students looking to study in the United States. The Nepali’s make up the highest part of the international student body, with around 200 students enrolled this semester. Cultural festivals occur often in an attempt to help diversify the campus community and celebrate the cultures of international students.
“Since there are over 200 Nepalese students here at SCSU, organizing one cultural event a year just isn’t enough.” Shrestha said. “Even though we are miles apart from our family, HNI at least tries to fulfill this gap and reflect the Nepalese culture.”
“For an international student [not from Nepal] like me, it’s very important to share our culture from different parts of the world with SCSU and the St. Cloud community in general,” Bangladeshi student Shabin Ahmed said.
Joy filled the Ritsche air, with performances of song and dance emulating Nepalese culture all throughout the night. Renditions of what a night during Dashain would look like were also performed in the form of skits, often gathering chuckles from the audience.
“Dashain is our [Nepalese] form of Christmas and Thanksgiving, but it just lasts a lot longer,” Nepalese student Pravin Dangol stated. “It’s the time of year when friends and family gather, eat, drink, and have fun, so it’s nice to have an event here where we can celebrate as well.”
After the entertainment provided, guests were welcomed to join HNI in dinner, to continue celebrating the festivities. Many different foods from the Nepalese culture were served, including pulau, which is a rice dish with a complex flavor. Other foods including Khasi ko Masu, which is Nepal’s signature goat curry, and Golveda ko aachar were provided as well.
All funds raised are going to be distributed to one of the organizations dedicated to helping children back in Nepal.