By Jay Roberson
The celebration of good over evil was shown through colorful attire, traditional Indian dishes and a night of music and dancing at Garba and Dandiya Night presented by the Indian Students Association on Nov. 3 in the Mercer Room.
Navratri, which spans over nine days, is a celebration of the goddess Durga and the defeat of the demon Mahishaura.
Ronit Jobanputra, a sophomore environmental studies major and the secretary of ISA, said, “It means the defeat of good over evil. It’s how we portray ourselves in front of god, not in a hypocritical way. We feel that the good is still there, and we’re just trying to get over the evil within us as well. Like ego, or greed or anger.”
The night began with participants taking turns burning incense in worship around an altar for the goddess Durga, which stood alone in the middle of the room.
After a period of worship, each participant was on their feet moving in a circle and dancing when Indian music began to play.
Junior psychology major and president of ISA Sapandeep Sohpal doesn’t celebrate the holiday in her culture as a Punjabi Indian, so she learned a lot more about Navratri as she planned out the Garba and Dandiya Night.
Sohpal said, “I’ve been to these [Navratri celebrations] before, but not as many. So for me, it’s more like I want to learn how to dance and how they go in the circle. I was learning myself. Yes, I’m the president, but that doesn’t mean I know everything. I’m still learning, and there’s so much to learn about.”
A brief break from dancing was taken as attendees indulged in butter naan, paneer tikka masala, rice, khaman, bread pakora and jalebi to refuel them for the rest of the night.
Junior psychology major and vice president of ISA Soumya Khandavalli showed appreciation for the togetherness in her culture.
“With this many people it’s beautiful to see. I’ve done this with my family in India and everybody just comes together. Let’s come together and be with ourselves, which I love.”
Navratri is celebrated throughout the world in a number of ways including festivals, periods of fasting and worship.
“Learning about the history and seeing that even though it started thousands of years ago, it’s still so grand and beautiful,” Khandavalli said. “Having this in my blood and being like, ‘I’m a pure Indian.’ I love it and celebrating the holidays.”
Since ISA was founded at Rider only two years ago, Sohpal hopes that this club can bring a sense of home to Indian students as they are a small part of the Rider population.
Sohpal said, “Most of the students here are international students, so they came all the way from India. They value family when they come here and need emotional support. This just feels like all one family coming together just to enjoy a couple of hours for one night.”
The first Garba and Dandiya night at Rider was successful as community members from different cultures enjoyed and participated in events.
Jobanputra said, “Just to see so many diverse people from different cultures and races. It’s amazing to see all of us get together and take part in this event.”
Moving forward, ISA looks to host more cultural events that are open to the Rider community to educate students and celebrate their colorful traditions.
“Last year when we had these events, there were not many Indians … Now there are more Indians and we’re able to have these events as well as bringing more people. As an ISA e-board member, I just want us to spread our events through college and make everyone realize that our culture is very diverse,” said Jobanputra.