On Oct. 21, the Multipurpose Field was aglow with red, green and blue electronic lights as hundreds of students danced their hearts out to upbeat traditional Indian music. At Garba Night, hosted by the Indian Student Association, the warmth and friendliness of Indian culture inspired Comets to dance in huge circles and connect.
Garba is a traditional dance form performed during Navratri, a nine-day festival which originated in the state of Gujarat but is now performed everywhere. The dance form honors women and their importance to Indian culture by moving in synchrony in a circle in commemoration of the goddess Durga. This circular movement represents the passage of time through the stages of life, done without footwear, as it is believed in Hindu tradition that the sacred energy people pass to one another moves through the ground.
Clothing is one of the most visually appealing parts of this dance; participants wear striking chaniya cholis — traditional Gujarat garba wear — and lehengas, general Indian wear. The chaniya choli design is inspired by folk wear and consists of a top, a gown-like bottom piece and a dupatta, or long piece of cloth, which wraps around the rest of the outfit. During Garba Night, the chaniya cholis spun in unison in waves of color and sparkled under the moonlight.
After the first two hours of garba, Comets held aarti, a religious song meant to call for positivity and ask for strength; it is performed to demonstrate gratefulness for the opportunity to dance for goddess Durga. Attendees of this garba saw it in a light of kinship and togetherness, as the festival captures the essence of coming together to ward away evil.
“[Garba] really does remind me of home — you get to live on your culture,” biology sophomore Mekhla Shelar said. “It’s fun to be here around your people and celebrate something that’s very niche. I haven’t been to India in a while — this is the only way you get to connect to your culture.”
The spirit of camaraderie stuck well with another attendee of the garba, Chandranshu Malhotra, a computer science graduate student.
“I like the vibe — I like the way we can celebrate Indian festivals here [in the United States) and the way we are able to dance with our friends, [ISA’s organization] is nearly perfect,” Malhotra said. “I loved garba in undergrad, I can make some new memories and relive those days.”