India Foundation of Metropolitan Princeton presents its annual 2015 Navratri Raas Garba celebration at High School North on Saturday, October 24. The festival has been celebrated in this area for 38 years. Food will be available from Crown of India. Tickets are $15.
“One of our most important goals is to promote better understanding of Indian culture, traditions, and its heritage in our adopted homeland and pass on our way of life and values to the next generation,” says Sanjay Phanse, a West Windsor resident and president of IFMP, a nonprofit organization established in 1977.
Navratri, a nine-day festival worshipping the goddess of Shakti Durga Maa celebrated by Hindus around the globe, is the longest running Indian festival. Navratri is derived from the Sanskrit word “nava,” which means nine, and “ratri,” which means night.
Garba, a traditional Indian dance is performed in a circle around an earthen lamp or a statue of Durga that is usually placed at the center of a large hall. Celebrants muster all the energy they have to dance vigorously in concentric circles around Durga. Raas or Dandiya Raas is a dance performed by men and women in two or more circles with stick in their hands. The dance stages a mock-fight between goddess Durga and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king, and symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
“Both Garba and Raas dance forms are easy to learn, and anyone can learn it in 15 to 20 minutes. If you are new to this dance, we encourage you to come early to learn the steps before the program starts at 7 p.m. from experienced dancers,” says Phanse. “Participants will spin, clap, and undulate as they orbit around a figure of the goddess being worshiped that night. It is a group dance and is more traditional than religious.”
While the majority of people will be wearing Indian attire the event is open to all. “Young men and women are dressed at their best during this event,” says Phanse. “The majority of women will wear a traditional Sari or Chaniya Choli, a heavily embroidered three-piece dress with the material ranging from cotton to silk. Men will wear kafni pants with a kurta, a loose and long shirt common in India. Traditionally the kurta is white or gray, but for the Garba men will often be seen wearing very vibrant colors.” There will be a new contest for best dressed male, female, couple, and children in various age groups.
The organization will also present a cultural show on Saturday, December 19, also at High School North. “This is our biggest event of the year which provides a platform for the younger generation to connect with our rich Indian heritage and culture by way of dance and music,” says Phanse. “Choreographers and musicians from the area have been sending their students to perform in this cultural show for past 20 plus years.” This year the cultural show will comprise dances from various states of India, folk and classical dances, and Bollywood-style dances.
The India Foundation’s executive committee includes Bharti Shroff, Bharat Sethi, Priya Sundararaman, Deepika Kohli, Susmita Rao, Shilpa Satav, Sangita Menon, Raksha Tripathi, Ambrish Agarwal, Neetu Pal, Anand Mohan Sothi, and Pradeep Gupta.
Navratri Raas Garba Celebration, India Foundation of Metropolitan Princeton, High School North, 90 Grovers Mill Road, Plainsboro. Saturday, October 24, 7 p.m. Anuji and Sharad Wala Group performing. $15. 609-297-7116. www.ifmpnj.org.