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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Navratri Celebrations

    Indian music and dancefilled Pritchard Gym last Saturday night as community members and studentscelebrated Navratri, a nine-day festival dedicated to the three main goddessesof Hinduism. Well into the night, people of all different ages danced to therhythms and songs of their homeland.

    ‘?This is our way tokeep up the social and cultural events at Stony Brook. We want to spreadawareness of the diversity on Long Island,’ said Girish Shah, a coordinatorof the event.

    In its 21st yearat Long Island, the Navratri celebrations are stronger and more popular thanever. Though it was started primarily as a community event for the off-campuscommunity, student attendance has increased dramatically over the years. Now,students from all different reaches of New York, including Binghamton,Manhattan and Queens gather in Stony Brook for the celebrations. Roughly800-1000 people come to the event annually.

    ‘?It is a majorattraction for the entire community and unique experience for students who wantto celebrate their culture,’ Shah said.

    Navratri is observed incommemoration of the victory of the Goddess Durga over a demon, Mahishasur. Thedevotees that follow this tradition worship with dance and music, fasting andpraying for health and prosperity. Statues of the goddess Durga are decoratedand kept amidst the festivities for nine days. On the tenth day, they areimmersed in a river or pond.

    Each night is celebrated indifferent segments. First, the community celebrates by performing a dancecalled Garba, where men and women dance with organized steps with slightvariations around statues of Gods. Following this, a prayer is said, anddancing continues with dandia, or sticks, in a segment called Rass. Dancersline up facing each other and hit the sticks to the rhythm of the song. This isdone to symbolize the fighting that the Goddess Durga engaged in.

    ‘?We hope that peoplewill understand our culture and we want to promote our tradition in a positivecultural way,’? Shah said.

    This need to spreadawareness of Indian cultural events arose from problems that the Navratriorganizers faced last year after Sept. 11. They were wary of hosting a culturalevent during a time when racial tensions and intolerance were on the rise.’?The wounds of 9/11 were fresh and we didn’t want to startconflicts with any people that had racial biases,’ Shah asserted.

    Last week’scelebration did have a fewer turnout than expected, however. ‘?Since itwas cancelled for a year, people are not coming out as much. I think it willslowly pick up to a larger group as the years go by,’ said MiraKinariwala, Stony Brook sophomore.

    In the future, Navratriorganizers hope to work alongside the India Studies Department to increase the campuscommunity involvement in the similar cultural programs. ‘?We want to starta dialogue with Stony Brook students to find out what they want to see on theircampus,’? Shah said. ‘?We want to keep the spirit of Navratri andIndian culture alive.’

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