NITT is affectionately described by its alumni, staff and the administration alike, as an India unto itself. From all over the country, like pilgrims on a four-year journey, students descend upon the campus at the start of each academic year. They come with no preconceptions of the life that they will lead on campus.
When people join this institute, they hope to bridge the gap between their dreams and reality. However, when they set out to settle in this campus, their cultural background plays a vital role in deciding their company here. After the few months of college, after meeting new people- batch mates, seniors, professors, staff and experiencing new cultures, linguistic and regional differences become trivial.
Role of Festivals
However, there will be a sense of loss for some, as there is an inevitable parting-of-ways with traditions observed at home. Thus, in an effort to bring home closer, over the years, batch after batch, students from all over the country have taken it upon themselves to showcase the best of their respective cultures. In addition to that, they warmly welcome their extended families- friends and batch mates to partake in their celebrations. It’s not just the cycle tests and semester examinations that cross the borders of language and culture, but something as simple as smearing colours on each other’s faces.
Holi in NITT tends to be more of a hostel affair where everyone pitches in. The general procedure is for someone to get the biggest speakers in all the land and set them up in the courtyard. Meanwhile, another team of students would have secured the colours and balloons required for the ensuing celebrations. This would culminate in a two-hour sequence where onlookers could be forgiven if they saw naught but a cloud of colours and music. Throw in some cold glasses of ‘Thandai’ and you have a truly memorable day splashed with colours and happiness.
Saraswati Pooja is considered to be a festival of great importance to the natives of Bengal. However, in a campus where anything that can help during exams is much appreciated, the goddess of knowledge finds no shortage of devotees. The day witnesses a full-fledged pooja organized in the Barn hall specially adorned for the occasion. The idol is brought in from Calcutta and people in and around the campus come for darshan. Prasad is distributed to the enthusiastic crowd, following which the bhog, featuring traditional Bengal food, begins. The puja culminates with the Visarjan the next day.
One interesting feature of Saraswati Pooja is that it usually occurs early in the semester, meaning that it acts as the perfect occasion for a new batch of students to get to know each other better.
A festival celebrated by the Telugu students of the campus, in honour of the God Eashwaran. The preparation for the day of the pooja goes back by a week or so. Telugu students order authentic sweets from a confectioner in their homeland. Following delivery, a few senior students oversee the purchase of ingredients for the lunch service. Cooking is done – with no little effort – the night before the occasion. But more often than not, it results in some of the best Ugadi Pachadi that one could ever ask for. After the prayers are done, students continue the celebrations with Ugadhi lunch and cultural programs. Ugadi Subhakanshalu, indeed!
Tamil New Year
Tamil New Year, at NITT, it is celebrated about seven days after the actual date. The occasion is usually marked by a prayer service in the Barn Hall, attended by Tamil students from across the campus. Delicious food and drinks are served at the end of service.
A day on campus when all the natives of God’s own country and the extended provinces in the gulf, clad themselves in ethnic Keralite garb. Authentic ‘Chenda Drum’ music is played in the Barn Hall. The pookolam, thiruvathira, the skits and the sumptuous professionally made sadhya create a realistic experience of being in Kerala itself.
This Assamese festival doesn’t quite sufficiently give students the due credit for their resourcefulness and sense of cultural pride. Truly, the ability to almost elevate the celebrators to Assam purely through the taste of delicious Narikol laddu and doi shira, takes some impressive skills.
Easter celebrations are special in the hearts of the followers of Christ in the campus. This is mainly because of Christmas, the foremost occasion of Christianity, occurs over the holidays, preventing this closely-knit community from celebrating it together. To compensate, Easter celebrations tend to be on the higher scale. A short sermon is organized by a pastor from the nearby church. Following the sermon are a series of choir performances by the members of the Prayer Cell. Concluding festivities is the enactment of a skit, usually with an insightful moral at the end.
Lord Ganesh is universally loved for his cheerful demeanour. He is also considered as the ‘mover of obstacles’ and as an auspicious omen for new beginnings. The birthday of this God attracts students from all over the campus and unites them under one roof. The Barn Hall witnesses a short but powerful service in honour of Ganesh, following which food and sweets are exchanged between students. Truly, it stands tall as one of those festivals that completely strip away any boundaries of culture and language.
Diwali is probably the festival that is most relatable to students from all walks; more so than Dusshera. During the day, large congregations of students can be seen in prayer at the temple or at the Diwali lunch at the Barn Hall, garbed in traditional attire. In the evenings, traditional diyas and fuljadis are lit, lending the campus an almost heavenly aura.
The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu is primarily celebrated by the cooking sweet rice Pongal containing jaggery, cashews, resins and most importantly, harvested rice from the fields. In NITT, the occasion is celebrated by Tamil students dressed in ethnic attires. Prayers are said all over the campus to the gods, thanking them for the bountiful returns of the harvest. Pongal is cooked by the students and is distributed to all those who wish to partake in it.
Role of Clubs and Fests
With peer groups still often formed with spoken language as one of its primary criteria, it is the various teams and clubs functioning in the campus that brings together students across years.
It is a system where interests and aims take up priority over everything else. The fests are the secret bannermen, who have sworn an oath to put the college in high spirits, which demonstrate cultural harmony. The long-term planning and management that is required for the humongous fests, unites everyone in the team to a single cause where all the diverse cultural minds come together.
Along with the Organizing teams, the other clubs also show cultural harmony. The teams formed by students sharing common interests do not let the cultural differences to act as a hindrance to the team’s goals. As unity forms an integral part of every team’s success mantra, students adjust, explore and enjoy the different cultures in the team. This is one of the foremost steps in learning co-existence with people of other cultures.
The taste of different cultures under the same roof helps one to evolve better over a period of time and helps to understand the importance of preserving our rich culture and traditions.
These little observances are usually organized purely through the efforts of the students alone. It may strike some as a curious practice seeing that NITT is a government institute. But, despite the fact that every single student on campus is equal and is entitled to the same rights, there cannot but be a small desire to proudly proclaim one’s individuality. Through these displays of cultural diversity, the students are enabled to nurture makeshift communities where even the greenest of junior students can feel a sense of homeliness. And by allowing students to witness and experience even small glimpses of cultures other than their own, we are empowering NITT – a mini-India – to become an ideal-India for tomorrow.