The National Hindu Students’ Forum (NHSF) UK’s Central Zone and London Zone annual Navratri celebrations bring together thousands of students from across the country to celebrate Navratri, a festival dedicated to the divine feminine, Maa Durga.
Last month, NHSF (UK) hosted their biggest celebrations to date: 1,500 students from over 11 universities in the Midlands area attended Central Zone Navratri in Leicester. A week later, another 1,000 students dressed in vibrant traditional wear, from 12 universities in London descended upon Harrow Leisure Centre for London Zone Navratri.
The night started with traditional Garba which is done in concentric circles. As the pace of the music quickened, the energy within the room was electrifying. This high energy continued into Dandiya (a folk dance usually done in pairs, using wooden sticks), which was followed by a clear crowd favourite: the Ramjunyu and Sanedo (another form of Gujarati folk dance). The most powerful part of both evenings was hearing the hall filled with the beautiful sound of the Aarti, as students came together to recite Jai Adya Shakti.
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Navratri is celebrated in many different ways across the world. Garba is synonymous with the festival, especially in Gujarat. However, we also wanted to showcase the other ways Navratri is celebrated. Our celebrations featured a Golu (a display of Murtis and dolls traditionally created in South India for Navratri) and a map of Bharat where students could share how they typically mark this festival.
NHSF (UK)’s Navratri celebrations provide the opportunity to engage with the local community and support important causes. We were grateful to be joined by the renowned charity Anthony Nolan who discussed the importance of people from a South Asian background to become stem cell donors. We were also privileged enough to be joined by ‘Beyond the Bindi’, a group exploring ideas on Hindu femininity and womanhood.
One particular highlight was having internationally renowned dance artist Jigar Soni from Soni School of Garba dance teach students the steps to his latest Garba song Vasaladi, choreographed for Falguni Pathak and Shail Hada.
Devesh Karai, a London Zone attendee noted: “As someone who has only been to garba once before attending London Zone, the community atmosphere was fantastic. I immediately felt welcomed and really enjoyed learning different styles of garba and dandiya.
“It was amazing to see so many Hindu students embracing their Dharma and coming together to celebrate one of the biggest festivals in the Hindu calendar”.
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Navratri is a time to celebrate Maa Durga, the epitome of Shakti (strength) and Garba provides a way to ignite this Shakti within ourselves. The sense of togetherness, elevation and pure joy that was felt within the hall, after dancing to such energetic music was incomparable. NHSF (UK) also held Navratri celebrations in the South and North of the UK, as partnerships with the local community, which also saw a huge turnout.
Despite the recent rise in Hinduphobic attacks in Leicester and other cities within the UK , altogether the events attracted over 4,500 students, making it the largest student celebration of Navratri outside of Bharat, a proud achievement for us all. NHSF (UK) would like to thank everyone who joined us for the celebrations and made these events possible.
by Jaanki Thakrar
Jaanki Thakrar, part of the Finance Team on the National Committee for the National Hindu Students’ Forum (NHSF) UK. Currently in her final year studying BSc Banking and International Finance.