South Asian New Year

Content will be released during April 15-16 at 12 noon Pacific.


About South Asia

South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geographical and ethno-cultural terms. The region consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. Topographically, it is dominated by the Indian Plate and defined largely by the Indian Ocean on the south, and the Himalayas, Karakoram, and Pamir mountains on the north. The Amu Darya, which rises north of the Hindu Kush, forms part of the northwestern border (Source: Wikipedia).

OACC’s 2021 South and Southeast Asian New Year program represents just a small selection of cultural celebrations from these regions. We hope our program inspires you to learn more about the diverse traditions and heritage of South and Southeast Asia.

Content for April 15th

The Leela Youth Dance Company (LYDC – formerly Chhandam Youth Dance Company) is a flagship program of Leela San Francisco (formerly Chhandam School of Kathak) that empowers young South Asian American women as artists, cultural ambassadors and leaders of social change. The program provides comprehensive world-class training and performance opportunities in kathak, North Indian classical dance, for ages 12-18 years.  LYDC is a year-round dance and leadership program that provides intensive pre-professional training and employs classical dance training as a medium for participants to gain a deep understanding of their own identities, discover their voices, and become more socially conscious citizens.

The program is led by Artistic Director, Rachna Nivas, who is an artist, choreographer, educator, and entrepreneur in Indian classical dance and brings meaningful leadership to the Leela Institute of Kathak and the arts community. Rachna’s larger vision is to raise awareness, through kathak dance, of the rich philosophies of the Indian subcontinent, and for it to be a tool for empowerment and elevating women’s voices. She is a senior disciple of legendary kathak maestro, Pandit Chitresh Das and demonstrates the depth of 17-year training under him through the wide variety of her critically-acclaimed performances including Shiva, Pancha Jati, Shabd, Sita Haran, Darbar, Son of the Wind, and most recently SPEAK. Rachna is also a co-founder of the Leela Dance Collective. The program’s Assistant Director, Ahana Mukherjee, was a member of the inaugural youth company from 2002 – 2009. Upon receiving her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UCLA, she returned to the Bay Area and began working directly with Rachna Nivas to shape the youth company training and program. She serves as an educator, mentor, assistant choreographer, and logistics coordinator for LYDC. She is also an ensemble dancer with the Leela Dance Collective.

This video was created in partnership with the Leela Youth Dance Company. Special thanks to Seibi Lee for providing this recording!

Content for April 16th

Punjabi Sikh artist Sunroop Kaur shares her grandparents’ recollections celebrating Vaisakhi, and also expands upon her current project in progress. Sunroop then demonstrates traditional paintmaking techniques. Follow Sunroop on Instagram: @loquacious_lines

This video was produced with the help of Sunroop Kaur, her Nana ji and Nani ji, and ARTogether.


Akila Rao presents a opening piece in Bharatanatyam called Mallari. The piece is a short ,10-minute item and is performed as a welcome to the street procession of the Lord of Dance, Lord Nataraja and his family.

Mallari is a unique piece of music played on nadawaram (wind instrument) the presiding deity of a temple is taken on procession. The deity, decorated with jewels and garlands is brought near the temple tower and nadawaram (wind instrument) artiste plays the music with the accompaniment of thavil (percussion instrument)

The word Mallari literally means to ‘wrestle with lord’. Mallari in dance is a passage of syllables set to a certain ragam and talam. It is executed in 3 speeds. It is a particular type of a worship where in the deity is made to sit in a palanquin and taken around in the temple premises.

About Akila Rao

Smt. Akila Rao is a Bharatanatyam dancer and artistic director of Sri Vidya Dance School, Cupertino, California. She began her Bharatanatyam training at the age of 7 and spent her formative years learning under Guru Pasumarthy Ramalinga Sastry, Hyderabad in the Kalakshetra Bani of Bharatanatyam. Smt. Akila Rao holds a Masters in Architecture degree and has expanded her artistic qualities of art and architecture into the dance form and continues to pursue her learning Bharatanatyam from eminent Gurus of the Kalakshetra Foundation.

Learn more about Sri Vidya Dance School.


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Return to OACC’s South & Southeast Asian New Year page