ASU Unified Society of South Asia hosts Hindu celebration Garba and Raas

The religious tradition is meant to honor the Hindu Deity Durga

The Unified Society of South Asians (USSA) will be hosting the yearly Hindu celebration of Garba and Raas at ASU’s Sun Devil Fitness Complex from 8 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, Oct. 19. 

Garba, an Indian religious and folk dance, originated in Gujarat, a state located in India. The dance traditionally occurs during an Indian holiday known as Navaratri, which is a nine-day Hindu festival. 

During Garba, people dance barefoot in a circle to honor the goddess Durga, who represents divinity and protection. Durga takes on nine forms, hence the nine-day celebration. 

Blossom Bakhda, a sophomore studying biological sciences and outreach liaison for USSA, said Garba is performed in a circle to symbolize the cycle of time.

"The only thing that is constant is the goddess," Bakhda said. "It is the one unmoved symbol of the center that we always focus on." 

Bakhda said this year USSA established a partnership with ASU's chapter of the Asian-Asian Pacific American Student Coalition (AAPASC), which is a coalition board of over 20 Asian and Asian Pacific clubs around campus.

Bakhda said she hopes Garba and Raas reflect this new partnership in bringing in people from various communities and further expanding the presence of USSA on campus.

Zakir Siddiqi, a senior studying political science and public relations officer for USSA, said past ASU Garba and Raas have garnered attention from people outside of ASU.

"People from (The) University of Arizona, people that are graduated (and) people who are in high school all come, so it's a nice way to have different kinds of people coming in," Siddiqi said. "ASU is kind of like a rally cry for the South Asian community in Arizona." 

Garba dancing will occur at the commencement of the event, followed by the Arti, which is a Hindu religious prayer honoring the Deities. 

In the Garba and Raas, the Arti will honor Durga and will serve as a transition to Dandiya-Raas, a more structured form of patterned dancing with brightly colored bamboo sticks. 

Anish Agarwal, a freshman studying computer systems engineering and member of USSA, will be the DJ at the event and said that the task of deciding which songs to play can determine the spirit of the dance as a whole.

"(The music) supports the rhythm for the dandiya sticks," Agarwal said. "Raas is a style of music that allows Dandiya to happen."

Sidiqqi said the patterned dance is meant to bring participants together.

“We encourage people to bring friends because Dandiya will be a lot easier," Siddiqi said. "With Dandiya, whenever you jump in, you are gonna want a partner."

He said the unique part of ASU Garba and Raas is the conclusion of the event with Bollywood music, an attempt to create a contemporary blend of traditional music and more popular styles. 

"Because the Bollywood part isn't part of Garba, it's just a freestyle thing, like we know that people like to dance to music anyways, and we figured we should finish the night strong," Siddiqi said. 

Siddiqi said USSA offers a discounted price for ASU students, which is $5 when students present their Sun Card at the door. For non-ASU students the fee is $7.

He said everyone should be able to get involved, and USSA members will be there to assist new dancers along the way. 

"People do like to spice it up and add American dance moves," Siddiqi said. “There is a little of everything for everyone, which is what I appreciate about Garba."


Reach the reporter at anatar12@asu.edu or follow @AnushaNat1 on Twitter.

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