The Michigan League Ballroom was transformed into a place of celebration Wednesday evening as members of the University community took part in the Hindu festival Navratri, which honors the Hindu goddess Durga. The festival’s name means “nine nights” and is celebrated annually in the fall.
Hosted by the Hindu Students Council, the event drew more than 100 students dressed in colorful robes and saris. Music blasted as attendees performed the traditional high-energy Navratri dances of Garba and Raas.
“There are also rituals and prayers done for the goddess,” said LSA junior Pravalika Jarugula, the director of outreach and communications for HSC. “It’s a celebration of the win of good against evil.”
The Navratri is celebrated five times throughout the year, but the current Sharad Navratri is the most popular festival. Though many Hindus fast and pray during this time, traditional dances are also an important part of the festival celebrations.
“We want everyone to be super involved and the dance is usually easy to pick up, so everyone can join in,” said LSA junior Tanha Shah, HSC director of public relations and marketing.
While many attending students practice the Hindu religion, Business senior Smita Garg, one of the co-presidents of HSC, said students who wished to learn more about the Hindu religion and culture were also welcomed at the event.
“The Hindu Students Council is a very established organization,” Garg said. “We’ve been around for a very long time. Really the highlight of our events is having people who are not from the South Asian community come and learn what we’re doing and what we’re celebrating.”
Garba is a high-energy dance performed in a circular formation with a picture or statue of the goddess placed at the center of the circle of dancers.
Raas is performed by clapping sticks together with two columns moving in a circular formation around the center as well. The dance traditionally represents the fight between the goddess Durga and Mahishasura, known as a mighty demon. The sticks used in the dance reprsent the sword Durga used in battle.
The Michigan Raas team attended to help individuals from all backgrounds and levels of experience partake in the dances.
“It’s awesome. My dad is from the part of the country where this dance originated, so I’ve been involved with this festival since I was a kid,” said University alum Prashant Salla. “It’s mostly about God. You keep God in the middle and then you dance for God.”
Business junior Sujaytha Paknikar, co-president of HSC, said the council would like to engage with more students.
“We’re always excited for people to learn about Hindu culture and to have them join us here and that’s something our campus could improve on targeting,” Paknikar said. “We’re always wanting to find new ways to get it out there.”