With its student body hailing from all 50 states in the U.S. and over 100 different countries, Tech is an institute that supports and encourages multiculturalism. The rich tapestry of backgrounds and cultures ensures that at any given time, there are many unique events and experiences awaiting its students. This past Saturday, Oct. 14, campus buzzed with the rhythmic beats and colorful attire of one of India Club at Georgia Tech (ICGT)’s two Garba events, held in the Exhibition Hall from 5-10 p.m. This cultural extravaganza illuminated the evening, uniting students and showcasing the diversity of the student body.
Tejas Shah, third-year CS, serves as the current Vice President of Logistics for ICGT. He shed light on the garba dance itself and its religious significance.
“Garba involves people clapping to the beat while moving in one of several large concentric circular lines. Aside from the dance, the whole festival of Navratri that encompasses the Garba dance is dedicated to the Hindu deity Durga, and the dancing/praying we do at this event is in honor of her,” Shah said.
Navratri is the Hindu festival dedicated to the goddess Durgaa, a warrior goddess who symbolizes femininity, divinity and strength. Navratri translates to “nine nights” in Sanskrit as a different form of the goddess is worshiped on each of the nine days of the festival. People may also follow a specific diet during this time,
similar to a fast. Garba is another vital part of the celebration performed during Navratri to honor the divine feminine energy within all people regardless of gender.
“Growing up, the yearly festival was one of the highlights of my childhood, and I loved being able to share that aspect with my non-Indian/non-Gujarati friends. Georgia Tech’s Garba is an amazing opportunity for Indian students who are unable to commute to an actual temple to participate in this event or for non-Indian students to participate for the first time in an environment that encourages learning,” said Shree Joshi, fourth-year PUBP and ICGT VP Operations.
Shah provided an overview of the event as a carefully orchestrated blend of dance, spirituality and authentic Indian cuisine.
“Usually, we’ll have the traditional Garba dance being done for a while, and then we’ll take a break to do ‘Aarti,’ which is a spiritual prayer rooted in Hinduism. Then, we’ll continue with the Garba dancing, and all during this time people are being called in groups to come enjoy our delicious authentic Indian food. Finally, towards the end of the night, we change up the vibe and throw everyone into what we call ‘Bollywood Night,’” Shah said.
Joshi explained how the preparation for Garba involved meticulous planning and coordination.
“Garba always takes us months to prep for. As two back-to-back events each accommodate approximately 700 people, there are a lot of moving parts to account for. Board members run the event by registering guests, serving food, helping with set-up/clean-up and overall managing the flow. We set the dates for Garba all the way in April, and we begin actively planning the event as the fall semester begins,” Joshi said.
Multiple teams, mostly consisting of members of the ICGT executive board, collaborated to ensure the event’s success.
“It’s always a very involved process. There are several ‘offices’ working in parallel to get various aspects of the event done in time. There’s marketing to get the word out, media/arts/design to make the place look beautiful and give it a nice vibe, operations to coordinate our board of 40 members to do things on the day of the event and even an entire IT team just to manage ticketing and registration for the event,” Shah said.
Similarly, Aditi Bang, second-year BMED, praised the event for having a vibrant atmosphere and well-organized structure.
“I really appreciated the organization of this event by ICGT. The process of checking in was not a hassle, and the actual Garba was super vibrant, seeing everyone in colorful clothing and having nice music in the background to dance to. ICGT did a fantastic job of making Garba fun and enthusiastic, and the Bollywood portion of the night was also energetic,” Bang said.
The event’s main goal was to create a sense of belonging and bridge cultural gaps for all students at the Institute, regardless of their background.
“While a large part of why we hold these events is still to give international students that sense of home and community, I think it’s also to rekindle cultural spirit in a lot of the people who might have grown up in the States but are ethnically not American. I also think that we tend to invite people of other cultures to the events that we find reminiscent of our childhoods, and this just allows people to become closer and share
experiences,” Shah said.
Attending Garba also helped guests foster a sense of community, representation and understanding of Hindu traditions.
“Garba allows devotees to honor Goddess Durga even if their families are not near them. The vibrance and cultural significance of Garba brings students together and allows students to learn more about Hindu traditions. It adds a rich perspective to the GT student body by increasing representation and seeing different cultural activities for everyone to enjoy,” Bang said.
The Garba dance circle was a cherished highlight for many attendees, who valued the unity.
“My favorite part of the event is the actual dance portion. During the dance portion, one would join the circle of dancers, moving to the rhythm of the music. It can be tricky to get a hang of at first, but with a bit of practice, the steps are simple and fun,” Joshi said.
For Bang, the event served as a way to reunite with friends and peers during the busy semester.
“My favorite part of the event was meeting everyone in one place. Some of my friends are out-of-state so we do not see everyone in other Garba functions in Georgia. It was great celebrating this with everyone at Tech,” Bang said.
Shah reflected at large on the special role she believes Garba holds in fostering connections and creating memories for all participants involved.
“When I was given the opportunity to help bring this festival that I’m so familiar with to students, it felt really special. Garba is more than just the dance, it’s really just a whole group of people coming together in the same area to talk, laugh and create memories. That’s what we’ll continue to try and create with all of India Club’s events over this next year, so stay tuned for Diwali, Holi and much more!”
For those interested, more can be learned about upcoming ICGT events, and other opportunities by visiting their website www.gatechindiaclub.com or follow them on Instagram at @indiaclub_gt.