36th Navaratri Festival Brings Traditional Indian Culture To Campus
If you have any interest in South Asian culture or just need a break from Homecoming tailgating this weekend, head over to the CFA for the school’s historically renowned Navaratri Festival. A nine-day celebratory period of major significance to the Hindu religion, Navaratri is also one of Wesleyan’s biggest annual arts events: major Indian artists and musicians fly out to campus every fall to perform and educate.
The festival began Wednesday with a memorial colloquium for T. Viswanathan, who brought the festival to Wesleyan in the 1970s and oversaw its ascendance to a nexus of traditional Indian culture in the western hemisphere. A panel made up of his former students including Music Department professors B. Balasubrahmaniyan and David Nelson talked about his time at Wesleyan and his effect on the community.
Thursday night continued the festival on a more jubilant note with Henna and Chaat in Olin. Elaborate and beautiful henna art met delicious Indian street food (fun fact: translated, chaat means “to lick”). This gathering was sponsored and organized by Shakti, Wesleyan’s South Asian Students Association.
If you missed either of these events, fear not: the festival runs through Sunday, and the headlining events are yet to come.
Friday, October 19
Friday night kicks off the performances with a vocal concert by B. Balasubrahmaniyan in Crowell Concert Hall at 8 p.m. He will perform traditional music of South India with David Nelson on mridangam, a type of Indian drum made of jackfruit wood and moistened leather also known as the “Instrument of the Gods,” and L. Ramakrishnan on violin. Joseph Getter will give a talk before the concert at 7:15 p.m. about the music of festival founder T. Viswanathan.
Saturday, October 20
T.V. Sankaranarayanan is one of the top performers of Carnatic music, a type of Indian classical music more vocally centered than its Hindustani counterpart. The winner of numerous honors (including the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India) for his emotionally rich and technically precise singing, Sankaranarayanan will perform at 7 p.m. in Crowell on Saturday alongside Thiruvarur Bakthavathsalam on mridangam and Vittal Ramamurthy on violin.
Sunday, October 21
Sunday brings a double whammy of Indian culture and dance. At 11 a.m., A. V. Srinivasan will lead Saraswati Puja, a religious ceremony that worships the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, and art. It marks a great day to embark on new personal journeys and projects, so head to World Music Hall for some spiritual motivation. The festival closes with a performance by Rama Vaidyanathan, a leading figure in the “bharata natyam” form of dance noted last fall in the New York Times as a rare unifier of the angular and emotional sides of Indian classical dance. It should be a thrilling, sensual, and emotional conclusion to a wonderful weekend.