Navratri 2015 at UT Austin

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Learning how to play dandiya.
Photos: Puja Patel & Vijay Pallod

AUSTIN,TX: On October 23, Hindu Students Association hosted Navratri at RecSports. Despite the dismal and rainy weather, attendance for the event peaked at over 1,100 people, a record attendance for the event. Navratri stands for nine nights, and it is a religious and cultural holiday that commemorates women’s contribution to society and the victory of good over evil.

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Navratri arthi done by Hindu Students Assn at UT Austin.

This year, the theme of the event was women empowerment, which was relayed in various forms. One of the ways was by highlighting a different famous Hindu woman for 9 days on the Facebook event page. The theme also carried on to the event where various posters were set up to showcase the accomplishments of these figures. Co-chair Monika Shah commented on the theme that “The goal of our theme was to help students gain self confidence. Since college is a pivotal time as we transition from being a student to entering the professional world, we found that empowering women would spark motivation in others.”

The event began sharply at 7 with hordes of students shuffling into RecSports to the fresh smell of samosas and the joyous sound of Indian music. Some stopped to eat, take a few pictures by the backdrop, or examine the educational posters before heading into the dancing room. One thing was shared among the diverse group of attendees – everyone was excited to begin the celebration of Navratri.

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Monkia Shah and Namita Pallod co-chairs of Navratri at UT Austin.

The event began with a note to the various sponsors of the event and an opening prayer, and then it quickly transitioned into the dance form of garba. The throng was composed of students with all ranges of experience in garba; some had never even heard of garba until a few minutes ago while others had been dancing to these tunes since they were young children. On this, attendee Erika Storli says “The best part of Navratri was how engaging and welcoming it was, even though I had no prior experience in garba, I was able to join in and have a lot of fun!”

After completing the garba section of the event, attendees took a break to participate in the traditional Navratri aarti. For the next section, the action quickly picked up again as attendees rushed to acquire dandiyas to participate in raas. By the end of the raas segment, attendees were soaked in sweat, but their energy was unwavering as they continued on to the bhangra dance. Attendees of different cultures, race, and backgrounds all joined together to end the night with a bang by dancing to upbeat bollywood songs. The night culminated with a t-shirt toss and students eagerly awaiting next year’s celebration

Namita Pallod is a junior at The University of Texas at Austin. She was one of the co-chairs for Navratri and is a core member of Hindu Students Association.