Celebrating Garba Night at NEIU

Jacklyn Nowotnik

Photos by Victor Collaso

Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) boasts its diversity as a means of attracting potential students, and with events such as Garba Night, it may have a good reason to.

NEIU’s Indian Students Association (ISA) held its first Garba night, filled with traditional Indian food, music and dancing. Students from ISA said that Garba is a celebration that lasts nine day

s and takes place from mid evening until the early morning of the next day. They also said that while Garba doesn’t have a specific date, it’s normally celebrated every year around Oct. 16, in an Indian temple.

The festivities call for special attire for both men and women. The student said that women wear a colorful chaniya chori (a long embroidered skirt with a blouse and scarf that exposes the midriff) and the men wear a similarly colorful dajam sherwani (a snug fitting coat-like garment with pants).

ISA’s Garba night was set up in NEIU’s Physical Education Complex building with a quarter of the gym designated for eating and relaxing. The other quarter of the gym was for dancing and held a table alter for Amba Mata. Amba Mata is a mother-goddess incarnation of Lord Shiva’s consort Parvati, sometimes referred to as Durga, according to the Bharatiya Temple of Lansing. “Amba Mata is God,” said a student from ISA in explanation of the meaning behind Garba.

Photo by Victor Collaso

The student went on to say they dance a traditional dance in a circle around the alter of Amba Mata to represent the fluidity and changeability of life, and the permanence of the fertility Goddess in contrast. The dances around Amba Mata are typically to songs specific about the Goddess, but now they take on a more modern twist as songs now include Bollywood tunes. Dances also include the use of Dandiya (colorful sticks) which are swung in circular motions.

Garba is an event that the ISA would like to continue to have annually, because not only would it raise awareness of Indian culture to NEIU, but it publicly celebrates a part of their culture they don’t want to forget.