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Thursday, August 18, 2022

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Cougars celebrate at UH’s first Navratri festival


The event marks the beginning of autumn as determined by the lunar calendar. It’s a sacred opportunity to worship the forms of Mother Mahisasura Mardini. | Mary Curtis/The Daily Cougar

The event marks the beginning of autumn as determined by the lunar calendar. It’s a sacred opportunity to worship the forms of Mother Mahisasura Mardini. | Mary Curtis/The Daily Cougar

The Hindu Students Association welcomed students, staff and visitors Friday as they poured into the Houston Room at the University Center for a night of celebrating Navratri, a Hindu merriment honoring the motherhood of God.

A professional DJ, a dance floor and traditional garb were all attendees needed to lead the night into a passionate Navratri, or nine nights celebration. People of all ages celebrated on the dance floor to the beat of Bhangra, Bollywood and Raas music.

For every individual, Navratri has its personal meaning. For some, mingling is enough. For others, the festival is a way to send praise above. To visitor Rima Shah, Navratri is somewhat of a tradition in her family.

“We’ve had it for years. It goes all the way back. Basically it’s just a very cultural thing with food, dance and all of us enjoying ourselves. My favorite part of the event is probably Dandiya, which is what most people are familiar with,” Shah said.

Dandiya Raas is an Indian dance practiced most frequently during Navratri. The origins of Raas and the Dandiya sticks are debatable to some, but visitor Dhrub Patel from Canada shared his ideas on the source.

“I’m not sure how Dandiya originated, but here’s my interpretation. Back in the day, people used to fight with swords. Using them, they had fighting practices. From there, it sort of turned into an art. Then I guess it turned into a dance –– which is too dangerous with swords –– so they developed the sticks which are safer,” Patel said.

For Bijal Mehta, who began organizing the event months in advance, it was a special day that finally unfolded.

“This is the very first time that Navratri festival has been done at UH. We actually started planning and organizing it way back in June because we wanted it to be really big, grand scale and everything. So in June, we started asking departments and individuals in the community for funding and reserved the place and stuff like that,” Mehta said.

To partake in Navratri, Mehta says there is really no right or wrong way to go about it.

“Hinduism is very flexible and there are different ways to practice. So, you have to choose your own path. People all have different beliefs and it’s not like you’re forced to believe a certain way. You have a choice,” Mehta said.

Senior Hiral Patel cracked jokes with friends outside the festivities. To him, Navratri is a time for socializing and to possibly meet a girl.

“There’s going to be dancing and stuff, but I’m not really in the mood. Plus, I’m not really dressed appropriately. To me it’s really just a social event to meet people, hang out and also the girls look so pretty in their dresses,” Patel said.

For those who couldn’t make UH’s Navratri, there’s another chance. The George R. Brown Convention Center is hosting its own Navratri 2011 Celebration on Sept. 30th.

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