Taste of culture


Annual Navratri brings Indian tradition to campus

By Lauren Lukens

Everyone is welcome to join Schoolcraft’s version of Navratri Garba, presented by the Asian Student Association, in the DiPonio Room in the VisTaTech Center from 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Oct. 18. Navratri is an Indian tradition that celebrates the goddess that represents power, all things good, the spirit of Indian culture and victory of good over evil. It is celebrated primarily in India, but as people have migrated to other countries, the festival has gained popularity all over the world.

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“It’s actually from Gujarat, but now it’s taken on a life of its own. You don’t have to be just from Gujarat; people from all over India celebrate it. Now, at Schoolcraft College, at the event, you will find people of all ethnic backgrounds coming and dancing,” said Anna Maheshwari, Head of English Department and Asian Student Association Faculty Coordinator. “Even if you don’t know how to dance, we will teach you how to dance.”

There will be Indian food catered by Suvai Taste of India based in Ann Arbor and live music by Sammvad, an orchestra that plays music for such Indian dances as garba, bhangra, dandia and raas. Lots of dancing will occur and guests can shop at a marketplace for Indian clothes and jewelry.

“It’s a great place to have it. It’s a wonderful way to showcase the culture amongst our students and it’s a great way to bring people together. We have even had a lot of good luck with prospective weddings coming out of this event. Young ladies will meet young men and their families will be there,” said Maheshwari. “We have had nothing but good luck attracting more and more people. It’s just a fun event for the entire family—old, young children and everybody alike.”

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In accordance with the lunar calendar, Navratri is celebrated throughout India in autumn, usually around the beginning of October, as a gesture of thanks for a bountiful crop season.

“The beginning of autumn is considered to be important junction of climatic and solar influences. This period is taken as sacred opportunities for the worship of the Divine Mother Durga,” said Asian Student Cultural Association President Ashi Arora. “The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar in which women follow tradition to wear nine colors of dress on Navratri.”

Navratri means “nine nights” in Sanskrit, and Garba is a form of Indian dance that originated in the state of Gujarat in India.

“It [Garba] is a simple and energetic dance that is performed in a circle and is described as dancing in a sweeping motion from side to side while hand clapping, and then spinning in a circle,” said Arora. “It is performed around a centrally lit lamp, a statue or picture of Goddess Shakti, also known as Goddess Durga.”

The traditions spread over time, and there are different legends that describe Navratri’s history depending on where one lives in India. The festival is celebrated with great reverence throughout India, and families often go out dancing all nine nights in celebration.

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“My favorite part of the event is the Garba dance, where people dance in circles for hours, and the dandiya dance, which is performed using two colorful sticks. People wear traditional and colorful costumes designed with lovely embroidery and mirror craft, making the dance form unique,” said Arora.

People of all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to attend the festival to learn about Indian culture through music, dancing and food at Schoolcraft’s Navratri Garba.

“It’s a great way to learn about another culture. In the global society we live in, it’s very important to know what’s happening in the world around us. When I talk about being global citizens, it becomes our responsibility to know other cultures,” said Maheshwari. “What a great way to get to know another culture while getting to have fun at the same time.”

All proceeds go to the Coins to Change program, which helps build a school in Uganda for orphans. Schoolcraft is currently close to reaching the $20,000 mark towards a $25,000 goal to help build the school.

“People are going to have a great time, they are going to learn about a new culture and they are going to have some good Indian food. At the same time, all proceeds are going to building a school in Uganda for orphans. I don’t think it can get any better than that,” said Maheshwari.

While guests are welcome to wear Indian attire or bright colors, there is not a specific dress code for the festival. Tickets are available for $15 in the Student Activities Office, at Resham Boutique and Spa in Northville and at Taj Cottage in Novi. There will also be tickets available at the door for $20 with no charge for children five and under.