Hindu group showcase prayers, food, dance

Christina Chaey

About 30 students in traditional Indian dress were bathed in candlelight during a traditional prayer ceremony as part of a celebration hosted by Om Hindu Cultural Council Saturday. The event, called Mela, was a chance for students to immerse themselves in Indian culture for a full day, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The day began with yoga on the Lakefill, followed by a traditional Puja prayer ceremony in Parkes Hall. About 30 students participated in the ceremony that celebrated Ganesh, the god of good luck, who “has symbols of leadership and qualities” said Weinberg sophomore Priti Modi, one of Om’s co-presidents.

The ceremony included a traditional offering table of flowers, fruits and incense. The priest wished the students good health, a good education and happiness in their lives as they took part in prayers, songs and rituals. They then took in offerings of food called the prasad.

“The prasad is the food that’s been blessed by the god,” Modi said. “We then thank him for everything he has given us.”

After a lunch of pav bhaji, a traditional Indian dish, students enjoyed a game of Jeopardy about Indian culture and a round of kabbadi, an Indian sport similar to rugby.

At night, more than 50 students gathered in Patten Gym to celebrate three traditional Indian dances – the garba, raas and bhangra. Each dance represented a different Indian state, and students in jewel-toned robes danced with decorated wooden sticks called dandhiya.

“It’s just a time to get together and dance and have fun,” Modi said. “But at the same time, we have a statue of god in the middle of the room, so we’re still respecting the god.”

The dancing was a way for students in Om to share their culture with students who want to learn more about India.

“I’m really into cultural diversity,” said McCormick senior Carla Herrera, who went with a friend who is in Om. “It’s really great for someone who has never done something like this because everyone’s really nice, and they show you how to do it.”

Om has been planning Mela since Fall Quarter, said Communication junior Krutika Lakhoo, Om co-president.

“This is our biggest event of the year,” she said. “We have to make sure everything comes together properly.”

During the year, Om has a Diwali dinner in the fall to celebrate the festival of lights, and Holi, the festival of colors, on May 24. Om is also looking into co-sponsoring events with other cultural groups on campus, Modi said.

“I think it’d be a lot of fun to get to know other people through awesome events and learn about their culture too,” she said.

Om also hosts weekly discussions when they come together to discuss both cultural and religious topics.

“We’ve talked about Indian sports, non-heterosexuality in Hinduism, Indian culture and social and political issues,” Modi said.

Om’s discussions are not exclusively centered on Hinduism, and members try to make it cultural, not religious, Lakhoo said.

“We’ve also talked about the Olympics, the Tibet-China controversy and Pakistan,” Modi said.

Casting any controversies aside, the evening’s celebrations were just about having fun, Lakhoo said.

“It’s just to celebrate the success of the day and to get people to have fun with one another and celebrate our culture,” she said.

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