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Hindu Students Council and Young Jains of America hosted an event commemorating Navrati, a nine day festival that celebrates Hindu Goddess Durga.

Credit: Sue Roy , Sue Roy

On Saturday night, studentsdanced to blaring music in a packed building — but this was no frat party.

This weekend, Penn Hindu Students Council and Young Jains of America held a festival celebrating Navratri, a Hindu festival. Indian and non-Indian students alike joined together to celebrate the holiday with rituals and dancing throughout the evening.

Brinda Doshi, a member of the South Asian dance troupe Penn Masti, attended the event. As someone who has participated in many similar events, Doshi brings a distinct perspective to the celebration, particularly at Penn.

“Garba at Penn is very localized to the college community, so it is for the people of your age, which is a lot of fun because you get to meet more people and you are very close to everyone and know them at a very personal level,” Doshi said.

Navratri, also known as “the festival of nine nights,” is a nine-day celebration of the Hindu goddess Durga. Each day is said to symbolize one of the goddess’s nine incarnations, which are celebrated as the main focus of the festival. Participants dance to a variety of South Asian music, from Bollywood style to the traditional Garba, in which dancers circle around idols of Durga in worship.

One event that dancers participated in was Raas, a style of dance making use of wooden sticks called dandiyas. Dancers formed long lines, faced each other and danced in a circle, with every person having a different partner each time. Anand Prabhu, a member of the Penn South Asian Society’s programming committee, said he particularly enjoyed this style of dance.

“Dandiya was my favorite [style of dance] because it was fun getting to be partners with different people and getting to know them,” he said.

Prabhu celebrated his first Garba at Penn this year; in fact, he had never been to a Garba before coming to Penn. What struck him most was the prevalence of non-Indians present at the festivities.

“After Garba, I learned that everyone here is very close, and not only Indians but a lot of non-Indian people come out to have a good time and also learn about Indian culture.”

HSC & YJA is an organization dedicated to fostering the Hindu and Jain faith on campus through religious events held throughout the year. This year’s co-presidents are junior Prakhar Bhandari and senior Aardra Rajendran.

The Council holds four main events each year: Navratri Garba, Diwali — a celebration called “the festival of lights” — Saraswati Puja and Hindu Jain Awareness Month, which includes Holi, a very popular holiday for Indians and non-Indians alike in which participants throw colored powder and spray each other with water to represent love and kindness.

The groups said that this year’s Garba was a huge success for the HSC & YJA, and they continue to foster Hinduism and Jainism at Penn — even for those who celebrate neither.               

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