Section: Arts

Traditional Garba dance sheds light on Hindu festival

Traditional Garba dance sheds light on Hindu festival

by Iris Chen

Thirty students gathered in Gund Commons on Friday for a jubilant evening of rhythm and dance to celebrate the traditional Hindu festival of Navratri by learning Garba, an Indian folk dance.

This year, the Navratri celebration lasted Oct. 13-22. Navratri is a festival of victory dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga and is celebrated over the course of nine nights and 10 days.

Rishi Choubey ’16, who is a Collegian sports writer, helped organize the event, sponsored by the Kenyon South Asian Society (KSAS). “I as well as other members from KSAS thought it would be fun to celebrate a holiday that is commonly celebrated back in Southeast Asia,” Choubey said. “We thought these Kenyon students would like to learn and participate as well.”

According to Pankti Dalal ’17, a leading dancer, different regions in India are home to local forms of celebration, but dance has always been the most popular. Each village has distinctive costumes, but a passion for community dance is shared around India. Garba dance is the most-favored activity in Navratri festivities, and a form of folk dance that is easy to learn.

It is more important to be highly sensitive to rhythm than memorizing steps in Garba dance, due to the frequent interactions with others necessary in community dance. A recording of music performed on centuries-old Indian instruments provided background music.

“When I think of Garba, I think of the idea of union, people doing individual movements in the circle,” Dalal said. “They are moving as a unit. So it is just a lot of fun. And most people in Gujarat participate in a huge amount of festivals. Whenever there is a big religious festival, people celebrate with dancing.”

On Friday, students stood in two circles, one inside the other. Moving in opposite directions, they clapped and danced with whoever turned in front of them. Participants not only revolved around themselves after each clap but also had to rotate around with their partners halfway through.

According to Dalal, girls in Garba wear sweeping skirts while men dress up in traditional Gujarati costumes constituting baggy pants, which enable free movements.

Three leading dancers from KSAS wore traditional Indian costumes with stripes and bright fabrics. Sruthi Rao ’16 wore a set of lankas sent to her by her grandmother. “They are worn in different ways in different states,” Rao said. “Most Indian girls will have some kind of lankas.”

Rather than passively absorb information, the Garba dance allowed students to actively take part in the rich tradition of Navratri.

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