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Hindu Students Council hosts Garba Night in Newcomb Ballroom

The event celebrated Navratri, a nine-night Hindu festival that occurs every autumn

<p>The ballroom was rife with sparkling chatter as attendees relished in delicious food and cheery company but was soon replaced with quiet awe as HooRaas — the University’s competitive co-ed dance team that specializes in garba — showcased a performance.&nbsp;</p>

The ballroom was rife with sparkling chatter as attendees relished in delicious food and cheery company but was soon replaced with quiet awe as HooRaas — the University’s competitive co-ed dance team that specializes in garba — showcased a performance. 

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On any given weekday, Newcomb Hall is bustling with the typical restless chaos of an American college environment — students grabbing a quick bite to eat at the dining hall, scrambling to finish a homework assignment or ordering a pick-me-up coffee from Starbucks right before class. Last night, however, Newcomb radiated a more vibrant energy with bright colors, music and celebration as the University’s Hindu Students Council hosted its annual Garba Night in Newcomb Ballroom from 6 to 10 p.m. 

The evening began with a new addition — a welcome and brief presentation about the event by Haritha Nanduri, fourth-year College student and HSC president. Since the event was open to the entire University and Charlottesville community and advertised as such through social media platforms, Nanduri hoped to provide more cultural context for attendees, regardless of their background. 

“[The event] is not only about allowing [attendees] to elevate their culture, it's about allowing people to learn about multiculturalism and have a fun cultural experience,” Nanduri said. 

Garba Night — one of HSC’s main events — celebrates Navratri, a nine-night Hindu festival that occurs every autumn in the Indian subcontinent to honor the Hindu goddess Durga. Nanduri added that each night is dedicated to different aspects of the divine female principal, or shakti. Navratri is celebrated differently depending on the region in India, and this event highlighted garba, a custom folk dance native to the Indian state of Gujarat. 

After the presentation, attendees lined up to fill their plates with vegetarian chaat, or snacks, catered by Milan Indian Restaurant. The food included samosas — pastries filled with spiced potatoes and peas stuffing — chili paneer — similar to cheese cubes in sauce — and manchurian — fried cauliflower in spices and sauce. The ballroom was rife with sparkling chatter as attendees relished in delicious food and cheery company but was soon replaced with quiet awe as HooRaas — the University’s competitive co-ed dance team that specializes in garba — showcased a performance. 

The dance floor then opened up for all attendees to participate as members of HooRaas led dance workshops to primarily Bollywood songs. A myriad of bright colors swirled as attendees — who were mostly donned in traditional Indian attire — moved in a circular formation typical of garba dance. Prior to the event, Nanduri said she encouraged everyone to wear their traditional clothing from any culture they identify with, saying, “It’d be really cool to see people wearing their native attire from their own cultures and participating in the dance.” Face masks were necessary accessories for all attendees, though, signaling the recognition of the ongoing pandemic. 

Meanwhile, HSC and HooRaas also held Henna and bake sale fundraisers, respectively, in which attendees could receive a Henna design or a treat in exchange for a small donation. Mansi Suresh, fourth-year College student and HSC recruitment chair, was excited about the Henna — which she described as similar to a temporary tattoo — fundraiser as another form of cultural connection “in addition to meeting people and dancing with everyone.” 

Ishita Mahajan, fourth-year College student and attendee, shared similar appreciation for the community aspect of the night, detailing that “dance and food are things in Indian culture that always bring people together.” Mahajan also expressed gratitude that “these spaces exist,” but qualified that there should be more of a presence of multiculturalism at the University. 

Opening Garba Night to the entire University and Charlottesville community is one way that HSC is catalyzing this sentiment themselves. Second-year Engineering student Justin Zhang attended Garba Night for the first time and noted that he felt the open and supportive environment allowed newcomers to feel comfortable learning something new while being exposed to a cultural practice. For other community members, Zhang had one suggestion — “come to this next year.”  

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