On Wednesday, Oct. 20, over six hundred students, garbed in vibrant traditional Indian attire, gathered in the Naimoli Athletic Center to celebrate the Hindu festival garba. This event was hosted by NJIT’s chapter of Hindu Youth for Unity, Virtues and Action — Hindu YUVA — which is a national youth religious organization. Other student organizations that helped host the event were the Association of Indian Students and Rutgers Indian Student Association, in addition to performers from Rutgers, NJIT and Seton Hall University. The combined efforts of all these organizations brought together the largest celebration of garba NJIT has ever seen.
“Garba is a folk dance form that is performed during Navratri to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and honor the feminine form of divinity,” said Nishi Gandhi, Vice President of Hindu YUVA and senior computer science major. “This celebration is an opportunity for individuals to come together and celebrate womanhood through intricate dance steps and music. Garba, to me, is a time to spend quality time with friends and family, wear colorful outfits and give gratitude to the community that has empowered me to be who I am today.”
Gandhi initially joined Hindu YUVA in 2018 as Freshman Liaison, serving as senate Liaison and Treasurer in subsequent years. This perspective has allowed her to see the organization grow from a newly founded club into one of the largest organizations on campus.
“Starting as a small initiative in 2018 by a couple of friends to celebrate Hindu culture on campus, Hindu YUVA has grown significantly over the years and is now one of the largest cultural organizations at NJIT. Hosting both festival-related events like Garba, Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi, Diwali and cultural immersions through Webinar Series during the pandemic and Yoga Sessions, Hindu YUVA has grown in diversity and worked to preserve, practice, protect, and promote Hindu culture and heritage, by bringing together Hindu youth.”
Hindu YUVA has been collaborating with other student organizations to host garba since 2018, when the student organization was initially founded. Due to COVID-19, a physical garba was not able to be hosted in 2020. Previous garbas were held in the Campus Center second floor ballrooms; this year was the first time that the event was hosted in the Naimoli Athletic Center. The larger new venue allowed for a greater number of attendees who could enjoy the dance, dinner and performances in one space. Performers included Ehsaas, a competitive fusion co-ed dance team consisting of members from Rutgers Newark and NJIT, South Asian acapella group Savaan, South Asian classical dance team Thilanna and Seton Hall University’s South Asian fusion dance team, SHUSaba.
“With immense pleasure I would like to share that we had around 608 attendees, out of which 78 percent were NJIT students, 18 percent were Rutgers Newark students and 4 percent were Seton Hall students,” said Parthiv Patel, President of Hindu YUVA and junior civil and environmental engineering major. “Compared to 2019 Garba, we had a 49% increase in number of attendees, and we also recorded the highest number of attendees this year. Previously, the highest number was 398 students.”
Organizing such a large and well-coordinated event was not without its challenges. This was Patel’s first event as the President of Hindu YUVA, and there was a lot of pressure on him due to this being one of the biggest in-person events on campus after almost a year and a half of the pandemic. To efficiently manage the event, Patel sub-divided the organizers into four subcommittees: core, decorations, pre-event management and post-event management. “Everyone was distributed work according to their committee; for example, the core committee decided on the DJ, food vendor and budget management, decorations was in charge of the layout and decorating the event space, pre-event management team helped with setup and signing in the students and post-event management took care of space clean up and pack up. I myself was part of every committee and was the primary point of contact.”
“One of the major challenges I faced during the process of organizing the event was five days prior to the event, one of the co-host organizations backed out, with the most stressful part being they backed out with their funding, and at that point, we had already placed an order for the food and other needed materials,” said Patel. “I found this out on a Saturday, and my event was on the following Wednesday, which basically meant I had to find a new co-host organization who can help us with the same budget in 2 days. That week was a hassle, but somehow, I managed to find a new co-host organization by the end of Monday evening. I would like to give a huge shoutout to Jason Rodriquez[, assistant director for Diversity and Inclusion]; without his help we wouldn’t have such a successful event.”
Despite the setbacks, all the organizers were extremely satisfied with their efforts and grateful that the event turned out so well.
“The experience was truly amazing; previously, we had collaborated with NJIT for Garba and had a great turnout, but this was something truly special,” said Davin Ramdin, President of Rutgers Newark’s Indian Student Association and senior marketing and supply chain management major. “My favorite part of this event was definitely seeing everyone come together, not just the student organizations, but both Indian communities from Rutgers and NJIT respectively. Due to the effects of COVID-19 separating us last year, there was a lot of disconnect, so to be able to work with NJIT Hindu YUVA and AIS on this event to bring people together after a long period of isolation truly meant a lot to me.”
Going forward, the organizers are already planning to make the event even better. “I had a feedback session about the event with other co-host organizations, Hindu YUVA Eboard and my friends who attended the event, and we realized that attendees felt that the event time was not enough,” said Patel. “[This is] something that we realized during the event progression and noted down, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes again. Apart from that, I felt that we had a pretty good event, and everyone had fun while it lasted.”
“I hope that Hindu YUVA continues to grow as an organization and bring about a positive change at NJIT by sharing the Hindu culture and traditions with students,” said Gandhi. “I wish that future students continue to take pride in their background and heritage by celebrating the festivals and events on campus, and I hope students enjoy the events as I have and carry forward the legacy of the club for years to come.”