Hindu festival a celebration of women

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To celebrate the festival of Navratri, the Hindu Students Association invited everyone to join in a traditional form of stick dancing called Dandiya Raas.

Each dancer held two long sticks they hit together in time with the music. Every five beats, the dancers changed partners.

“You hit your sticks together while dancing and move down the line,” said astronomy and Plan II senior Aditi Raye Allen. “It’s great fun. I’ve come every year [since being at UT]. It’s amazing.”

Navratri means “nine days” in Sanskrit. The festival, which celebrates women’s contributions to society, commemorates a nine-day battle between the goddess Shakti and a buffalo demon. More than 600 students confirmed their attendance on the Facebook page for the event, which took place Friday.

“It’s amazing our culture takes nine days to stop everything and recognize women,” said association president Kavita Pallod. “We put women up and raise them up. We take the time to honor and respect women.”

The first three days celebrate the goddesses Durga, Kali and Amba. Days four through six honor Lakshmi for peace, wealth and bliss, while the final days honor Saraswati, the goddess of art and knowledge.

“We’re dancing to honor the different forms of the Goddess Shakti,” said Soniya Chaudhay, spokeswoman for the associaton. “So we can embody not just material, but spiritual wealth, knowledge and power.”

French and education senior Stephani Clayton attended the event for the second time and participated in Dandiya Raas.

“It takes a little bit of practice to really get comfortable with it,” Clayton said.

Dandiya Raas was not the only type of traditional dance at the festival. The night began with a performance of Garba, a circle dance around an earthenware lamp and three small statues of goddesses.

Tables set up at the festival displayed information about the common misconception that Hinduism has hundreds of gods.

“It’s one god and it just takes different forms,” Pallod said. “Feminine and masculine parts exist in god. The universal message is honoring the women in your life.”

Their next event, Diwali, will be held Nov. 4 on the Main Mall at 7 p.m.

The Hindu Students Association holds recurring meetings on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in Garrison Hall 1.126.