by Suparna Samadevham
Photography courtesy of BU Hindu Students Council FB
Elaborately embellished skirts, frantically clapping hands and loud upbeat music: this what Metcalf Ballroom, packed with 1,600 people, looked like at the annual Raas Leela dance on September 30.
Hosted by BU Hindu Students Council (BUHSC), the dance’s purpose was to honor the Hindu festival of Navratri.
According to BUHSC president Abiramy Logeswaran (CAS ’18), the term “Navratri” translates to “nine nights.” The first three nights are for Durga, the next three for Lakshmi and the final three to Saraswati.
“We celebrate the female energy in Hinduism,” Logeswaran said. “These three goddesses embody the three most important aspects of the World—power, wealth and knowledge.”
She then concluded that it is a significant part of Hinduism as “it is an opportunity for us to look into our inner ‘devis’ [goddesses].”
Garba, the type of Indian folk dance performed at this event, is typically performed during Navratri. It involves individuals dancing in a revolving circle to a repeated dance pattern. Sometimes, wooden sticks are also used to dance with a partner (Dandiya).
Both Garba and Dandiya originate from the Western state of India—Gujarat. In other parts of India, Navratri is celebrated in other ways. For example, in the state of Punjab, women fast for the first seven days and break the fast by give gifts and money to nine young women from the neighborhood. These young women are supposed to represent the nine incarnations of Maa Shakti. In Tamil Nadu, Kolu steps are placed to set up dolls and statues of gods and goddesses.
BU’s Raas Leela event is the biggest Garba in Boston and BUHSC is constantly trying new ways to improve the event.
BUHSC recognized that, since Garba is mostly practiced only within the state of Gujarat, many students would not understand the language in the songs, so they made it more accessible, Abiramy said.
“So, this year, we put up presentations explaining what she’s singing about,” Logeswaran said. “We’ve also incorporated different languages.”
Jaanvi Desai (QST ’21) from Gujarat in India said the celebration at BU reminded her of home, even if it wasn’t quite as authentic as she is used to.
“Though the dancing isn’t as authentic as it would be in India, it is great to see so many Indians come together to celebrate the holiday,” Desai said. “It makes me miss home this time of the year.”
According to Logeswaran, due to the large crowd of BU Students and non-BU Students, the event also took a lot of preparation.
“We had to set up all the lights, the band, sound, balloons and so on,” Logeswaran said. “The arthi table in the center takes a while too. So, it took 16 of us from our board about 6 hours to work on it.”
But with their hard work, the event is sure to be bigger and better next year.
“If I had to use one word to describe tonight, it would be experience,” Logeswaran said.