Any day of the week, Newcomb Hall is bustling with the hectic chaos typical of an American college environment – students grab a quick bite at the dining hall, scramble to complete an assignment, or order coffee to take away from Starbucks. Before the classes. Last night, however, Newcomb radiated more vibrant energy with vivid colors, music and celebrations as the University’s Hindu Student Council hosted its annual Garba Party in the Newcomb Ballroom from 6 p.m. to 22 h.
The evening started with a new addition – a brief welcome presentation on the event by Haritha Nanduri, fourth year student at the College and President of HSC. Since the event was open to the entire Charlottesville University and community and advertised as such on social media platforms, Nanduri hoped to provide a more cultural context for attendees, regardless of their background.
“[The event] is not just about allowing [attendees] to elevate their culture, it’s about enabling people to learn more about multiculturalism and have a fun cultural experience, ”Nanduri said.
Garba Night – one of the main events of HSC – celebrates Navratri, a nine-night Hindu festival that takes place every fall in the Indian subcontinent to honor the Hindu goddess Durga. Nanduri added that each night is dedicated to different aspects of the divine feminine principle, or shakti. Navratri is celebrated differently depending on the region of India, and this event highlighted the garba, a custom folk dance that originated in the Indian state of Gujarat.
After the presentation, attendees lined up to fill their plates with vegetarian chaat or snacks, prepared by the Indian restaurant in Milan. The food included samosas – pastries filled with spicy potatoes and pea stuffing – chili paneer – similar to cheese cubes in sauce – and Manchuria – fried cauliflower with spices and sauce. The ballroom was filled with sparkling chatter as attendees relished delicious food and cheerful company, but were quickly replaced by silent awe as HooRaas – the University’s competitive mixed dance team specializing in garba – presented a performance.
The dance floor then opened to all participants, as the members of HooRaas conducted dance workshops mainly to songs from Bollywood. A myriad of bright colors swirled as the participants – most of whom wore traditional Indian clothing – moved in a circular formation typical of the garba dance. Ahead of the event, Nanduri said she encouraged everyone to wear their traditional clothes from whatever culture they identify with, saying: “It would be really cool to see people wearing their native clothes from their own culture and participate in the dance. ” Face masks were, however, necessary accessories for all participants, signaling recognition of the ongoing pandemic.
Meanwhile, HSC and HooRaas also held henna fundraisers and bake sale, respectively, where participants could receive a henna design or treat in exchange for a small donation. Mansi Suresh, a fourth-year college student and HSC recruiting president, was excited about henna fundraising – which she described as similar to a temporary tattoo – as another form of cultural bond “besides meeting people and dancing with everyone “.
Fourth-year student and participant Ishita Mahajan shared a similar appreciation for the community aspect of the night, noting that “dancing and food are things in Indian culture that always bring people together.” Mahajan also expressed his gratitude for the fact that “these spaces exist”, but called the fact that there should be more presence of multiculturalism at the University.
Opening Garba Night to the entire University and Charlottesville community is one way for HSC to catalyze that sentiment itself. Justin Zhang, a sophomore engineering student, attended Garba Night for the first time and noted that he believed that the open and supportive environment made newcomers feel comfortable learning something. again while being exposed to a cultural practice. For other members of the community, Zhang made a suggestion, “come there next year.”