Sihasara event gives students a taste of Sri Lankan culture

A couple tries on traditional Sri Lankan party outfits at the Sihasara event on Sunday in the Union Courtyard. (John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

Meenu Mohankumar, president of the Sri Lankan Students’ Association and graduate student in statistics, said the whole community had a hand in planning Sihasara, the inaugural showcase of Sri Lankan culture at Kansas State on Sunday.

While the association has participated in joint events with groups from the Kansas City area and Lawrence in the past, Mohankumar said the group was excited to create an event specific to K-State.

“We always wanted to do something to show our culture and traditions,” Mohankumar said.

The Union Courtyard event featured K-State students, members of the Manhattan community and professional dancers and drummers from New York, California and Texas throughout the afternoon.

Members of the Sri Lankan Students' Assocation present cultural items from Sri Lanka at the Sihasara event. (John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

The event opened with an exhibition of Sri Lankan culture. Booths showcased traditional costumes and masks, dresses to try on, wood carvings and various Sri Lankan foods for attendees to sample.

Sihasara was “full of color, tasty food and unique beats,” said Dietra Sober, junior in social science and international studies.

“I now have a better understanding of my Sri Lankan friends’ lives,” Sober said.

After the exhibition, university president Richard Myers lit a ceremonial oil lamp and members of the Sri Lankan community in Manhattan performed various traditional songs, dances and drumming rituals.

Bjorn Jonsson, sophomore in architectural engineering, said the drummers were his favorite part of the event.

“[The emcee] said they were the best in Sri Lanka, and I believe him,” Jonsson said.

Sri Lankan dancers and drummers perform a traditional routine at the Sihasara event on Sunday in the Student Union. (Emma Witter | Collegian Media Group)

Geneva Fink, sophomore in human development and family science, said her takeaway from the event is that everyone should experience the traditions of different cultures.

“The Sri Lankan culture is beautiful and amazing,” Fink said. “Everyone should check it out.”

Mohankumar said her hope for Sihasara was that attendees would be able to better understand their Sri Lankan peers.

“When you share something that comes from your culture, you will have a broader mind,” Mohankumar said. “That’s what we want to give students here who’ve never experienced Sri Lankan culture.”