Life at IIT Kharagpur is dotted with events throughout the year. Most of these spark and fizzle off at the individual level itself. However, there are a handful of events which require the participation of practically all residents of a particular hall. Illumination is one such event where ‘the hall’ takes precedence over the individual and showmanship over victory. Every year, every hall comes out with their own show of lights and colours, which takes weeks of effort and countless man-hours. The scale and complexity of Illumination is perhaps second to none. Using thousands of diyas, larger than life figures are made with the sole purpose of giving the audience an experience of a lifetime. Undoubtedly, Illumination is the brightest manifestation of hard work, team play and creativity on campus.
The legacy that Illumination brings with it is over three decades old. It all started in 1981 when Azad Hall of Residence decided to turn an otherwise mundane Diwali celebration on campus into a competition of sorts commanding hall participation like never before. Azad’s neighbour Nehru came out with the design for the Illumination Cup which was christened as the Bigyan Sinha Memorial Cup. The first year saw Azad bag glory, something that they haven’t managed to repeat in recent years.
The following decade RK Hall dominated the scene with an astonishing six consecutive Gold wins from 1992-97. The year of 1998 saw Illumination being washed out for the first time. Notwithstanding the possibilities of rain, the ‘chatais’ grew larger and the figures more complicated and challenging as the years moved on. The new century saw the tide turn in favour of RP Hall which bagged a podium finish every time (except for 2009 when they were disqualified because of their ‘chatai’ catching fire) and ended the decade with six Golds to their name. 2003 saw a repeat of the 1998-washout – the rain-gods played spoil sport and laid weeks of effort to waste only to be outfoxed by the prudent minds of RP, who waited till the last moment to unleash their structure of fire. Being the only Illumination on display that year, RP received gold whose importance is purely academic. RK lost their former autonomy and were reduced to challengers to the crown along with LLR, VS and SN. The year 2008 saw a protest against an ‘11pm’ curfew rule imposed in the institute at that time which resulted in no official participation. After a week though, RP displayed a small Illumination in their footer ground. This year too RP bagged the ultimate prize of 600 ‘rosogollas’ with their Ramayan themed Illumination. They claim their ‘grand chatai’ beat all previous records for the number of diyas used in one ‘chatai’ by a long way, with more than 7000 being used for it.
Another major event that goes hand in hand with Illumination is ‘Rangoli’, which involves rendering beauty to life merely using coloured dust. Unlike Illu, it is not dominated by a single hall. The last decade saw RP, RK, Nehru and LLR taste gold with other halls popping up bearing second and third prizes. RP’s 2010 Rangoli not only landed them a silver but also a mention in ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’. However this year, in their attempt to take it to the next level, they apparently landed on the wrong side of the judges’ liking. Their only solace lay in the comment made by the DOSA, ‘With this year’s display, RP has raised the bar’, referring to RP’s rangoli which used a convex mirror to transform what looked like a nonsensical mix of colours on the ground into a portrait of Rabindranath Tagore.