Hindu Students Association hosts cultural festival Navratri to celebrate women’s contribution to society

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Photo Credit: Andrea Muniz | Daily Texan Staff

More than 1,300 students dressed in traditional Indian attire and danced barefoot to live music on-campus Friday evening at the cultural festival Navratri.

The Hindu Students Association hosted the festival at the Recreational Sports Center to celebrate women’s contribution to society, according to the event’s Facebook page. Navratri is a nine-day festival to celebrate the nine forms of Devi, a goddess who represents the female energy, according to the page.

“One part of (our event) is educational, so people understand the history of it and the different ways it’s celebrated,” association media chair Abhay Ram said. 

Along with dancing, students also received free Indian food and had the opportunity to write down the names of women they admired.

“You’ll see a lot of  diverse people coming out with their friends, because the main part of the event is dancing, and dancing is a language that everyone can speak to some extent,” said Ram, an arts and entertainment technologies junior. 

 

The first dance was Garba, where students clapped in circles around idols of goddesses placed under a tent in the center of the room. The idols were surrounded by candles, which students offered as part of a Hindu religious ritual of worship called Aarti, association co-chair Neha Irrinki said.

“(The candles) represent dharma, which is the guiding light to your duties and responsibilities through worship,” marketing sophomore Irrinki said.

Biology freshman Tejas Mohankumar said she went because she wanted to stay in touch with her culture and celebrate her grandmother.

“(My grandmother) taught me to be dedicated and passionate in whatever I choose to do,” Mohankumar said. “She’s been through a lot to get to where she is today, and she’s really been a monumental woman that I look up to in my life.”

After watching a student performance of a dance called Dandiya, students received their own Dandiya sticks for the next dance. During the dance, Ram said students form long lines with partners and hit the sticks together.

“The Dandiya portion is great, because you have to enter a line with a partner to start off, so that’s a really great way to make friends,” Irrinki said.

The festival ended with a Bollywood dance.

“The Bollywood portion towards the end was so great,” Irrinki said. “We don’t look at who we’re dancing with. It’s just the fact that we’re all there dancing together.”