(From left to right) College junior Janan Dave, College senior Trisha Sanghavi and College freshman Eshani Patel dance at the Hindu Student Council and Young Jains of America’s annual Navratri Garba celebration in Houston Hall’s Hall of Flags.

Credit: Abby Graham / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Bright lights, traditional Hindu religious music and colorful Indian outfits greeted students as they entered the Hall of Flags Saturday night, where the Hindu Student Council and Young Jains of America hosted their annual Navratri Garba celebration.

Navratri means “nine nights” and the festival, which lasts nine days and nine nights, is held in honor of the Hindu Mother Goddess, Shakti.

The festival is usually held near the end of September or beginning of October, depending on where the holiday falls in the lunar calendar.

Saturday night, HSC/YJA celebrated Navratri, with the pairing of two different dance styles: Garba and Dandiya Raas.

Garba involves dancing in choreographed routines with intricate hand movements around the Hindu Mother Goddess. In contrast, Dandiya Raas is dominated mostly by males who dance using colorful sticks in a sequenced fashion.

The Hall of Flags was packed for Navratri.

“I love that many students decided to fully participate and dress in traditional Indian wear for this event,” College junior and HSC/YJA Garba Co-Chair Nalini Jain said.

Women on the dance floor wore chaniya cholis, colorful blouses and skirts accessorized with traditional beads, shells and mirrors.

Men were dressed in colorful kurtas, a type of top, and paired them with embroidered scarves and pants.

The organizers even projected videos of basic Garba and Dandiya Raas steps at the event for newcomers who had never been exposed to a Navratri Garba festival before.

College and Wharton sophomore and Garba Co-Chair Neel Koyawala noted the value in hosting these events for the Penn’s Indian community.

“We want anyone who comes away from home — who feels homesick — [to] continue to cultivate these memories and stay in touch with their culture,” he said.

HSC/YJA hosts numerous Hindu religious and cultural events during the year, such as Diwali, Holi, Hindu Jain Awareness Week and Sunday Pujas, or prayers.

Individuals from among the Philadelphia community also participated in Navratri Garba.

Nikita Vardya, a recent college graduate who just moved to Center City, found HSC/YJA’s celebration reminiscent of her home in Michigan.

“I knew Navratri season was starting and I used to attend these events back in Michigan,” Vardya said. “Navratri gives me a chance to get back to my roots and allows me to be more involved in my culture.”

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