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Buckeye Mela celebrates South Asian culture

Daniel Chi / Lantern photographer

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About 2,000 Buckeyes and 300 other college students from different states gathered at Ohio State to forge ties between universities and South Asian communities.

Buckeye Mela, organized by the Indian American Association, the Indian Students Association, South Asian Student Association and Ohio Union Activities Board, among others, included sports tournaments, a block party and Srujan, which is an intercollegiate South Asian dance competition.

The event took place Friday and Saturday at the Ohio Union.

“Mela is a word meaning a major event all over the India,” said Nihar Vakil, a second-year in chemical engineering and Srujan planning committee member. “Thousands of people gather, come to shop and eat Indian traditional food in Mela.”

Nisha Arora, a second-year in biology and president of the Indian American Association, said all the profits from the event will be donated to OSU’s Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Pragati Path, a charitable organization in India.

“One of our main goals is try (to) give back to community,” Arora said. “This year, we chose to go with the James because we thought giving back to community is also giving back to the university that helps make (the) event that is going on right now.”

Ronak Mehta, a fourth-year in communication technology and Srujan chair, said most funding comes from the Council on Student Affairs, which helps fund student organizations.

He said he collected $3,000 in programming funds this year, and $22,000 to $25,000 was donated over the past three years.

Buckeye Mela hosted three sports tournaments: cricket, basketball at the RPAC and soccer at the Adventure Recreation Center.

A block party, where students could browse booths representing South Asian culture or make donations, was held at the RPAC Pavilion Saturday with free food, games, performances and music.

Hager Awad, a third-year in civil engineering, said she enjoyed the block party because it is diverse.

“I can meet people from different countries that I normally don’t,” Awad said. “I like that other organizations take this as an opportunity to represent what they have to offer.”

After the block party, Srujan, one of the biggest intercollegiate dance competitions in the nation, occurred Saturday in Mershon Auditorium at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Srujan helps shine light on South Asian customs, Arora said.

“Competitive dance is a huge part of the culture, especially in Indian-American culture in the United States,” Arora said.

It featured South Asian dance teams from across the country, including teams from universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Penn State, Columbia and Northwestern.

Shivani Dave, a captain of the University of North Carolina’s fusion dance team, Chalkaa, said she was excited to perform dance and celebrate South Asian culture at OSU.

“We love to dance,” Dave said. “We (had) some friends (come) with us from UNC to support from the crowd. It is (a) really awesome experience.”

Ten teams divided into two categories: a traditional dance called bhangra, and fusion. Each team competed for a $3,000 cash prize. First place in bhangra was Carnegie Mellon University Bhangra and first place in fusion was Northwestern A. Nu. Bhav.

Some students, like Nick Pasquarello, a fourth-year in psychology and sociology, had never experienced Srujan.

“The acts are longer than I thought they would be, but I didn’t really anticipate anything coming here since it’s my first time,” Pasquarello said. “I think that it’s really interesting that they include dubstep music in the show. It’s awesome.”

Hutchinson Persons, a fourth-year in philosophy, on the other hand, was not new to the Srujan crowd.

“This is my second time seeing Srujan” he said. “I enjoyed it last year, and it’s nice that the tickets for students are free.”

A student from Carnegie Mellon, Shivani Shrivastava, has attended Buckeye Mela for the past four years.  

“It was really great and really well-run, as usual,” Shrivastava said after the show. “Also, it’s very awesome that (the) CMU Bhangra team got the first place.”

Tickets to Srujan were free for OSU students and $16 for the public.

Anya Ursu contributed to this story.

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