Namaskar dances during Navratri
Namaskar, the Association for Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, hosted Raas Rasiya last Friday, one of the many events within the wider festival of Navratri. Navratri, or “nine nights” in Sanskrit, is a widely celebrated nine-day festival, each day honoring an incarnation of the warrior goddess Durga. According to the Facebook description, the festival celebrates “the victory of good over evil,” referring to Durga’s triumph over the demon Mahishasura. Although Raas Rasiya is typically held before Navratri (Oct. 9–18), last Friday was simply the most convenient time to hold the event.
Raas Rasiya was by no means exclusive. Namaskar made a clear effort to attract everyone through the novelty of free Indian food and the addition of a Bollywood dance party at the end. “There’s not a lot of Indian culture [on campus],” remarked Pramoda Bapatla ’20, president of Namaskar and one of the event’s organizers, “so [Namaskar] added these components to appeal to people of all cultures.”
The festival started off slowly, with people arriving between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. to eat the vegetarian food provided by The Maharaja. The dancing then began around 8 p.m. First, there was a traditional garba dance, a staple of the Navratri festival. The dancers honored Durga by circling around a picture of her on a table draped in lights. The advanced footwork and coordination of the dancers was mesmerizing to watch.
“It was super energetic and a new experience for many people,” remarked Nirupa Abraham ’22, who had heard of Navratri but never celebrated it before.
Later, more people trickled onto the dance floor for another feature of Navratri, Dandiya Raas, which is a staging of a mock fight between Durga and Mahishasura. Dancers hold sticks to symbolize Durga’s swords and whirl around with their partners to the rhythm of the music. Although this dance can be fairly complicated, beginners were able to join in with a simplified version.
Finally, there was the Bollywood dance party, which went on for the rest of the evening.
“[Raas Rasiya was] a good way to connect with other people and have a good time!” Nirupa said after the event. Those who practice Hinduism could celebrate their religion in a fun, inclusive way, and those who may have just come for Indian food got the chance to learn more about a popular Hindu festival with which many were likely unfamiliar.
The next Namaskar event is Henna Night on Oct. 19, co-hosted with the South Asian Students Association and the Muslim Students Association.