ISO fosters community during Dashain celebration

The International Students Organization (ISO) transformed the York Room in Birch Mansion into a hub of Nepali culture to celebrate Dashain on Tuesday. The Hindu religious festival is a staple of Nepali and Indian culture, and both foreign exchange students and U.S.-based Roadrunners flocked to celebrate.

“I’m Hindu, so this is a pretty big thing for us. Probably the main festival that we celebrate back home,” said Pranish Khanal, one of the ISO members in attendance. “It’s a 15-day-long festival. Back home, we have 15 days of holiday, everything closes. It’s like a big vacation as well. If you have family members who are far from home, everyone comes together.”

All attendees were invited to participate, regardless of their religion.

The first day celebrates jamara, a type of wheat grass. It sprouts over the next ten days and then is presented by elder family members to younger generations on Bijaya Dashami, also called “the day of tika.”

“It’s when older people give younger people blessings. Even though I’m far from home, because everyone is together, it feels closer to home,” Khanal said.

Tika, a mixture of rice, yogurt and dye, was applied by three senior ISO members onto the foreheads of the rest of the celebrants.

All attendees were invited to participate, regardless of their religion. ISO President Prashant Shah stressed that the event was open to everyone. “We wanted to make sure that everybody feels welcome… This festival transcends any religious boundaries. This is more of a celebration of the importance of family and community bonds,” he said.

His experiences with ISO have shaped Shah’s attitude as a freshman. “It was a support system for me, I found it was a good opportunity for me to engage with the community,” he said.

The inclusive atmosphere drew students like freshman Uma Advani. Advani is not a member of ISO but is active within the South Asian Club and appreciates the sense of community within the overlap between the organizations. 

“My favorite part of the event is probably the food because I don’t recognize a lot of the traditions going on, but the one thing I do recognize is the food. I’m excited to have Indian food because I haven’t had it in so long,” Advani said.

Highlights of the menu included the chickpea curry dish, chole bhature, and the rice-based dessert, Ras malai. The event was largely social, with plenty of time for attendees to talk while songs associated with the festival played over the speakers, such as “Dashain Tihar” by Sugam Pokharel.

Shah was thrilled with the turnout and enthusiasm. “When people show up to your event, some have no idea what Dashain is, and you see their willingness to participate? It’s like they’re open to learning, and that motivates me as well… That’s something we can learn from each other here.”


Featured photo by Danielle Bongiovanni