Navratri Dhamaal by Gujarati Samaj of Houston


By Malay Vyas

HOUSTON: October Fest for Indians is very much in vogue. Starting with Navratri, the next two months take us across cooler climates and festive atmosphere. The Sanskrit word Navaratri (loosely translated as nine nights) represents the celebration of nine forms of “Shakti devi”. The tenth day is called Vijayadashami or more popularly, Dusshera. As with many other Indian festivals, Navratri is celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country. In the east, it is well known as ‘Durga Puja’ while in the west, its Navaratri. People in Gujarat take part in community ‘Garba-Raas’ dances that go on late in the night. In some parts of India, Navratri is considered to the set of nine nights that lead to the defeat of Ravana at the hands of Ram and hence Dusshera is celebrated by burning the effigy of Ravana. Elsewhere it’s the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasura. It’s a celebration of the victory of Good over Evil.


Garba, the traditional Gujarati dance is the center piece of Navratri celebrations globally. Houston is no exception. The Gujarati Samaj of Houston has been instrumental in hosting Garba celebrations in the city for a number of years. Infact the growing popularity of Garba has led to more and more venues and organizations hosting festivities in different parts of the city. However, the Gujarati Samaj Garba has always been the most popular and hence the most sought after Garba event in all of Houston.

Ajit Patel and Nisha MiraniPhotos: Image N Motion Studio

Ajit Patel and Nisha Mirani
Photos: Image N Motion Studio

This year, the Gujarati Samaj of Houston celebrated Navratri by organizing Garba at three different venues. Aptly titled “Navratri Dhamaal 2013”, this event is the longest running event on the Houston Indian festival calendar, lasting for over ten days. This year, the celebrations started on October 5 at the George Brown Convention center. During the weekdays, Garba was hosted at the VPSS Haveli on West Bellfort. The second weekend of Navratri was at the Reliant Arena on 11 and 12 of October. An impressive crowd of more than 500 devotees attended Garba during the week days while on weekends, each night averaged about 5000 Houstonians enjoying the Garba. The Gujarati Samaj of Houston specially flew in special singers from India to sing at the Navratri festival.


Besides the Garba and Raas dances, the Gujarati Samaj of Houston also organized special competitions such as “best costume” – awarded to the best dressed male & female participants, “best garba performance” for kids and adults and a unique prize for the best decorated “arti” thaali.


The Garba dance form is performed in a circle around the idol or picture of Goddess Amba. While at the VPSS Haveli, the Garba were more traditional, the weekend Navratri saw a mix of “teen taali” garba followed by “Eench” – which is a more traditional Garba. “Dandiya-Raas” is always popular as groups gather in pairs and move rhythmically to the dhol beats. Modern avatars of Garba include the ‘Ramjhanyu’ and “Sanedo” which can almost be defined as free style Garba.


Talking to Indo-American News on the event, Nisha Mirani thanked Jugal Malani and family for supporting the event whole-heartedly. Nisha also commented “such an event, spread over a number of days, is always challenging to host and each and every member of my committee was very helpful in managing this event”.


She singled out Ajit Patel, Vice President of Gujarati Samaj, for his outstanding efforts during the entire Navratri celebrations. She also thanked Sapna Shah, the Secretary of Gujarati Samaj and executive members, Sanjay Chauhan, Amrish Patel, Kalpesh Rana, Bharat Thakkar, Rakesh Shah, Pankaj Patel, Smita Chawala and Harendra Hingu for their hard work that made this event a grand success. Sapna Shah and Smita Chawal also did a fabulous job as the “Arti” Coordinators for the entire event. A new committee will take charge of the Gujarati Samaj of Houston starting November 15. Nisha Mirani wishes them all the best and the rest of us in Houston will look forward to more events from them in the coming year and eagerly await the next Navaratri.