Raas Leela 2016: Celebrating the Passion and Power of Dance

Attendees pray in front of the Goddess Durga and wave diyas, oil lamps, during Raas Leela in Boston University's Metcalf Hall Saturday night. Photo by Silvia Mazzocchin/BU News Service
Written by BU News Service

By Bansari Kamdar
BU News Service

More than 1,500 people from all over New England gathered at Metcalf Hall at Boston University on Saturday to celebrate the spirit of dance and music of India at the annual Navratri festival, Raas Leela, organized by BU’s Hindu Student Council.

According to Abiramy Logeshwaram, BUHSC’s treasurer, this is the biggest event the group hosts all year, and Indian families all around New England, along with students from various universities, often attend.

Navratri, or “nine nights” in English, is a dance festival celebrated in Gujarat, the westernmost state of India. Navratri is dedicated to the Hindu trinity of the goddess Durga. Hinduism is perhaps one of the only religions in the world where the word of power, Shakti, is feminine and the Goddess Durga is believed the manifestation of that power. The nine nights and ten days honor the nine forms of Durga embodying creation, existence and destruction through her power.

Live folk Garba and Bhangra music was provided all night by the band Sargam Ki Shaam.

The event started with Garba, a Gujarati folk dance, where women, men and children traditionally dance in concentric circles around a statue of the goddess. The dance involves a lot of clapping that follows the beat of the dhol, a large double-headed drum played with sticks by the dholi, the drum-player.

“Garba is great to bring different communities together, and we all celebrate love and peace and female energy today,” Logeshwaram said.

Aarti followed Garba, where prayers were sung in honor of the Goddess and flowers and food was offered to the Goddess and to attendees. The dancing resumed again after Aarti, accompanied now with short sticks called dandiyas.

And no Indian event is complete without some Bollywood.

For many international students, events like these on campus are a way to connect with home when they are away from home.

Aarti Kasabwala, a student at BU and also a part of the BUHSC, said events like Raas Leela make her a bit homesick, but, in a way, it also helps her to feel like she’s a part of the local Indian community.

“In Boston, it is a little hard to find that aspect of cultural preservation. If you want to go to a restaurant, you need to take a T to a far-off location, whereas at home, I can just walk down the street and there will be an Indian store there,” Kasabwala said. “Joining this club and being a part of this event made me really feel at home and I was, again, close to a culture I had lost when I came here.”

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