Garba Night promotes cross-cultural interactions

Lively Indian music reverberated throughout the Interfaith Center’s foyer as students—many dressed in traditional South Asian garments—gathered for an evening of food, entertainment and culture.

Geneseo South Asian Student Association hosted Garba Night to celebrate Indian heritage by teaching customary Garba dances on Saturday Nov. 4. 

The Garba dance—part of a larger Indian festival—originated in the western Indian state of Gujarat and celebrates the Shakti goddess, according to Shakti Student Association representative freshman Kaitlyn Mundackal. Fellow Shakti SA representative freshman Tanjim Kazi further qualified that Garba emerged as a specifically Indian tradition.

“The basis of Shakti is to spread focus on India,” Mundackal said. “Events like [Garba Night] help us share the culture that we grew up with.”

Kazi reiterated the importance of on-campus multicultural visibility, which organizations like Shakti promote.

“Garba and other events like this help people understand what we’re about,” Kazi said. “[Shakti events] also help us be distinct on- campus—we’re showing that we have our own culture and want to share it.”

Saturday’s event commenced with an educational slideshow explaining the background of Garba dancing. Following the presentation, Shakti members taught two dancing styles: Garba and Dandiya Raas. For dinner, participants enjoyed chicken curry, a spinach dish, samosas and mango ice cream, catered by the Raj Mahal Indian Restaurant in Rochester. 

As they danced, the Garba attendees surrounded a makeshift altar—the dancefloor’s centerpiece. Traditional Garba festivals originated as religious celebrations, according to Shakti treasurer sophomore Hejal Patel. The festivities at Geneseo, however, took a more secular approach, with conventionally religious centerpieces replaced by candles and flowers. 

Patel explained that the Shakti e-board spent approximately one month planning Garba Night. During the event, Shakti general members assumed the roles of dance instructors. 

“Our main goal is to have everyone aware of South Asian culture,” Shakti co-president junior Trisha Maini said. “We really want to spread new ideas and different thoughts about the culture.”

Shakti promotes cultural awareness with comparable events throughout the year. Sangaman dinner and dance—Shakti’s largest celebration—takes place in February and, in the past, has attracted significant crowds, according to Maini. The Shakti e-board, moreover, intends on hosting a Henna body-art fundraiser later in the year, Maini said. 

“A lot of people think that the Shakti events are really cool,” Maini said. “They help to bridge the gap between different cultures on-campus.” 

Indeed, throughout the night, Shakti members and attendees lauded Geneseo’s multicultural organizations for facilitating intersectional dialogue. Garba Night’s participants resoundingly agreed that intersectional encounters and exposure to unfamiliar traditions bolster college students’ experiences by broadening horizons.

 Shakti members (pictured above) serving Indian food catered by Raj Mahal Indian restaurant at Garba Night on Saturday Nov. 4. The event also featured tutorials of traditional dancing styles led by Shakti members. (Elizabeth Jacobs/Staff Photographer)

Shakti members (pictured above) serving Indian food catered by Raj Mahal Indian restaurant at Garba Night on Saturday Nov. 4. The event also featured tutorials of traditional dancing styles led by Shakti members. (Elizabeth Jacobs/Staff Photographer)