In a flashy display of ceremonial dancing, the Hindu Students Council and Indian Students Association co-hosted their annual Garba Night-Navaratri event in the BankUnited Center FieldHouse in October.
Navaratri is the Hindu festival of nine nights dedicated to the Goddess Shakti and her various forms: the Goddess Durga for the first three nights, Lakshimi for the following three and Saraswati for the final three nights.
Jewel-toned robes, dresses and blazing candles defined UM’s Garba Night celebration during the Navaratri festival.
Participants and observers alike were enthusiastic, jubilant and, most importantly, dancing.
“It provides me a fun environment with my culture,” said Ravin Sajnani, captain of the Hurricane Bhangara dance team.
Most of the participants said that they came because of the dancing, as the two integral highlights of Navratri are the dances, Garba and Raas.
Garba is an Indian dance native to the Gujarat region. People dance in rhythm around a central lit candle and a picture or statue of different avatars of the Shakti goddess.
“You spin in circles, symbolizing that whatever you do in life, the idol is in the center,” said Raj Kumar, the freshman representative for the Hindu Students Council.
Dandiya Raas, or just Raas, is the second dance, which follows a brief ritual of worship called Aarti – when a lit flame is offered to one of the Hindu gods and passed around as a blessing.
During the Raas dance, people stand in two lines, while dancing to strong drum beats symbolizing the strength of the heartbeat and the dynamism of life. They also wave sticks called “dandiyas.”
“It’s a really good opportunity for diversity on campus,” said Junior and ISA member Shreya Baid. “It introduces people to Indian culture and gets them involved.”
The event was not limited to Indian students. Sophmore Dalton Fouts and junior Annie Ouyang were among the many non-Indian participants at the event.
Fouts said he hesitated at first because of unfamiliarity with the festival, but once there, he was fully engaged.
Ouyang said the Garba Night-Navaratri event was a “very welcoming and fun outlet.”