Old Union Hall came alive Sunday night with the sounds of Garba and Raas, a traditional Indian dance done with wooden sticks, as students gathered to celebrate Navratri.
Navratri is a festival celebrating the Goddess Durga, the manifestation of the Hindu Deity in the form of Shakti, energy or power. It is celebrated at the junction of climatic and solar influence at the beginning of autumn for nine nights and 10 days during which the nine forms of Shakti are worshiped.
Shilp Dalal, vice president of the Hindu Student Council (HSC) and a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience, explained the evolution of the festival.
“The Navarathri festival or ‘Nine Nights festival’ becomes ‘ten days festival’ with the addition of the last day, Vijayadashami which is its culmination,” Dalal wrote in an email. “These 10 days are celebrated by the different dances and rituals that we do.”
Hosted by the HSC and the Indian Graduate Student Organization (IGSO), the event featured elements of the Navratri festival, including dancing and a puja, a ceremony done to honor the Goddess Durga, according to Gauravi Patil, president of HSC.
“[The puja] is giving offerings to the goddess of prosperity, asking for her blessings,” Patil said. “It also includes taking blessing, her offerings to us.”
Garba and Raas, performed during the nights of the festival, is done in pairs while hitting sticks called dandiyas following the beat of the music. HSC and IGSO taught attendees five-step and 12-step variations of the dance.
Patil, a junior double-majoring in human development and integrative neuroscience, said the dance originates from the state of Gujarat.
“Garba is a traditional dance that is very energetic and involves a series of steps that are continuous throughout the song,” Patil said. “Raas is another dance performed with sticks and it also involves a series of movements that range from easy to hard.”
Patil said this is the first time HSC and IGSO have hosted a Navratri event at Binghamton University.
“I think it was really successful,” Patil said. “There were a lot different types of people here.”
Nearly 75 people attended the celebration and learned to dance Garba and Raas.
“We decided to start Garba at BU this year to show all the students how a traditional Garba looks like,” Patil said. “We are hoping to have a Garba annually to keep the tradition on.”
Anthony Aguiar, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, said the event was inspiring and fun.
“It really gives students the chance to experience something completely novel and close to a culture free of charge,” Aguiar said. “I learned how to Garba and Raas which was awesome.”
Dalal said he was pleased with the how the celebration went.
“I personally thought that last night’s event went well, we had a decent turnout which I’m glad about,” Dalal wrote. “My hope is that in the future this particular event will continue to grow attracting more and more people of all different backgrounds.”