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MSU Indian Students Organization celebrates return of Sargam cultural fair

April 8, 2024

After a short hiatus, the Indian Students Organization's annual Sargam showcase returned on April 7, 2024. The Sargam Cultural Fair held at the MSU Union Ballroom, featured performances, RSOs, food, and other activities.

The MSU Indian Students Organization held it annual Sargam cultural fair Sunday afternoon in the MSU Union Ballroom for the first time since 2019. The fair went on an indefinite pause for the last five years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sargam is the Indian Students Organization's annual cultural fair featuring students singing and dancing to popular Hindi songs in a celebration of Indian heritage and culture. Prior to the performances, attendees were greeted with a variety of activities, authentic food and booths belonging to registered student organizations. 

Some of the student organizations present at the fair were Spartan Sur, RaaSparty, Deepam, Swara, South Asian Awareness Network and We Are SAATH. 

Indian Student Organization Co-Director of Marketing Lowell Monis said with the revival of Sargam, the group makes certain to prioritize Indian culture to bridge the gap of division within the country. 

"There's a lot division in India right now," said Monis, a data science and world politics freshman. "We want to get away from that and emphasize on the culture of India more than the different divisions throughout the country. We try to keep it much more culturally related and to engage and inform people about Indian culture."

There were several guests of honor in attendance, including MSU Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar Bennett, Michigan State Senator Sam Singh and Mayor Pro-Tem of East Lansing Kerry Ebersole Singh.

"We're very excited to see Sargam back here on campus," Senator Singh said. "It's been a few years since they've had the opportunity to perform and have this event and so I'm excited to see it."

Singh, who is the first Indian-American to be elected to the Michigan Senate, said that when he attended MSU, he was involved in some of the early organizations that supported Indian Americans students on campus. It's great to see that work continue, he said. 

"The great thing about MSU is a great diversity of students and faculty, and so to be able to celebrate those differences, those unique qualities of the people that go to this university, I think is a special part of the fabric of this community," Singh said. "My hope is that this, along with other events, will continue to be there because it's an opportunity to educate. It's also an opportunity to celebrate and share each other's culture."

Bennett said the return of Sargam is a "wonderful opportunity" to showcase and celebrate various communities. 

"Essentially, I think it's a wonderful opportunity to showcase how various organizations celebrate, and for our very diverse and large community here to have an opportunity just to see what this particular community celebration looks like," Bennett said. "I'm just glad that folks did come out to celebrate."

Members of Spartan Sur took to the stage with performances of the US and Indian national anthems. Spartan Sur, founded in 2009, is a co-ed South Asian a cappella team which strives to bridge the worlds of a cappella and South Asian culture through its performances. 

The next performance came from MSU Swarma, which seeks to create a community of Indian Classical dancers and musicians while promoting the Indian classical fine arts at MSU. The dance was an invocatory item on Ganesha, the elephant headed god. It was choreographed and performed by biochemistry and molecular biology sophomore Abhinav Anand.

Students also had individual acts. Computer science sophomore Neha Aigalikar performed a Hindustani vocal titled "Raag Chandrakauns," an important Kauns melody. Human biology junior Swathi Thyagarajan performed a Kouthuvam, set in the ragamalika ragam and adhi thalam.

Then came a performance from RaaSparty, a competitive co-ed Raas Garba dance team on campus.

That was followed by a Bansuri instrumental medley of classical and semi-classical pieces in Raga Kaapi. The flute instrumental was performed by mathematics and doctoral students Adithya Sathyanarayana and Rakhal Chandran Baburam.

Biochemistry sophomore Abhinav Anand and human biology junior Nihal Bandla performed the Hindolam thillana, a classical dance full of elegance and energy. 

The next dance group to bring its high energy to the stage was Spartan Talwar. The group's performance took the audience through different dance styles including Bhangra, Bollywood and South Indian.

The final act of the evening was a fusion Bharatanatyam Thillana dance presented by chemical engineering senior Sanjana Shankar and biochemistry and molecular biology senior Megha Suresh.

Indian Student Organization President Archan Tulpule was happy with how the event turned out, which Tulpule said was especially important due to its hiatus. 

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"This is a really, really important event, not just for the Indian students, but for MSU in general," Tulpule said. "It's cultural events like these, which kind of show people's heritage, that really help with representation and just generally students and faculty on campus."

Tulpule said events like Sargam are critical to campus, which is why they put so much effort into making it a success. 

"To be honest, most students like to look forward to parties and social events, but I feel like it's more formal events like this which are extremely important," Tulpule said. "And we definitely do put social aspects of events to make sure they're popular and attracts students to show up."

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