By Isha Mahajan
Indian students flocked to Garbhangra in the Student Union Ballroom at UMass Amherst to celebrate the festival season of Navratri, Dussehra, and Diwali on Friday in a colorful and energetic display of South Asian culture through music and dance.
The event, hosted by the South Asian Student Association, featured two popular dance styles native to the Indian subcontinent. Garbha is a native dance style originating from the Indian state of Gujarat, where performers predominantly dance in circles around a lit lamp or a figure of Goddess Shakti in celebration of Navratri — a nine-day Hindu Festival in honor of the goddess Durga. Bhangra is another popular dance form prevalent in North India, primarily in the state of Punjab, which involves high energy jumps and dance moves and is often a staple dance at Indian celebrations.
“I went to Garbhangra because I wanted to learn more about my culture, meet people from my community and learn different native dance forms,” said Meghama Banerjee, a sophomore math major.
The event opened at 7pm at the Student Union Ballroom where students from across the community came together to celebrate the end of nine days of Navratri. Navratri is a traditional celebration, which includes various forms of praying, fasting in the name of God and culminates in dancing. The event featured the traditional Garba dance, a line dance which also combines dancing with sticks, in unified formation.
A few students began by going around in circles dancing to traditional music. Gradually more people joined in to make the circle larger. They danced around a table filled with candles and flowers and many wore traditional outfits like the Ghagra, Kurta, and Cholis.
The evening eventually gave way to more fast-paced bhangra, which is not a traditional dance form practiced during a Navratri celebration but has become a popular style of dance in both India and the West among South Asians. It was established to celebrate the victory of the farmer’s crop growth success when he is ready to bring food to his family’s table during the harvest season.
However, it is now seen as a way of celebrating various occasions like festivals and prayers that are prevalent in the Indian society.
“Bhangra is a high energy dance that doesn’t really need a technique. All you have to do is swing to the rhythm of the music and know how to jump and squat the best you can.” said Shaunak Shah, a resource economics major at UMass.
The room was filled with music, colorful outfits and a sense of unity which was brought into the room with the festival and drew members of other communities as well.