Navratri Celebration Honors Women

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Participants dance Dandiya Raas at South Mall on Saturday evening. Navratri is a nine day, ten night festival to worship Hindu goddesses.

Photo Credit: Julia Bunch | Daily Texan Staff

Students performed three traditional dances as part of Navratri, a celebration of women empowerment in the Hindu culture.

Hindus observe Navratri four times a year in correspondence with the lunar calendar. The tradition lasts nine days and nights and consists of fasting, worship and a final day of celebration.

The Hindu Student Association hosted a celebration of the last day of Navratri on the South Mall on Friday. Organizers estimated about 1,000 students and community members attended.

The event included a live DJ, Indian cuisine and rentals for colorful wooden Dandiya sticks needed for Dandiya Raas, one of the traditional dances.

The celebration began and ended with traditional dances around a centerpiece of flowers, lamps and statues of goddesses to celebrate the female goddess Shakti and to pay tribute to women’s empowerment in society.

In Hindu families, young girls are treated with much respect during Navratri, said Saniya Chaudhry, corporate communications junior and event co-chair.

“Every time we would pray, I was always adorned in the nicest jewelry and the nicest clothes in these nine days of Navratri,” Chaudhry said. “My family thought it was a human form of a Devi [goddess] in their house.”

The days of Navratri are broken up into three sets and three different forms of Shakti are worshipped, said Lakshay Jain, a biology senior and HSA spokesman.

During the first three days, the goddess Durga is worshipped for her energy and power.

The second three days are devoted to goddess Lakshmi, who is revered as the goddess of both material and spiritual prosperity.

During the last three days, goddess Saraswati is honored as the goddess of wisdom and knowledge.

“It’s something that I think everyone should see at least once in their lifetime, especially if you’ve not grown up in it,” said Swati Verma, a Plan II biology senior and event co-chair.

Students at the celebration performed three traditional dances, called Garba, Dandiya Raas and Bhangra. Movements in the dances included forming circles around the centerpiece, striking Dandiya sticks together and coordinated hand movements.

After the first dance, participants performed a five-minute prayer, called Aarati, where people were asked to remove their shoes as a sign of respect and gather around the centerpiece.

Jain said a large number of non-Hindus joined the celebration.

“Indians love Navratri as it is one of the biggest festivals on the Indian calendar and has a very deep root in all families, but people curious about what it is made up a surprisingly large percentage,” Jain said.

He said one the association’s goals is to dispel common misconceptions about Hinduism.

“We are not trying to spread our religion onto students, but [we’re] showing that it has some exceptional ideas underlying the ancient religion that apply to everyone,” Jain said.

Printed on Monday, October 17, 2011 as: Hindu celebration Navratri focuses on female goddesses