Hindu YUVA at Northwestern creates community around shared values


Photo courtesy of Hindu YUVA at Northwestern

Hindu YUVA met Wednesday for the Vijay Dashmi holiday, which is on the tenth day of Navaratri.

Kaavya Butaney, Reporter

Hindu YUVA at Northwestern, a new student group founded in Spring Quarter, is aspiring to bring together a community that celebrates Hinduism beyond traditional texts.

Led by undergraduate and graduate students alike, the group aims to create a space that is both spiritual and social, fourth-year McCormick Ph.D. student and Hindu YUVA Treasurer Akhil Singla said. 

“We needed a certain environment where we’re not just doing a scripture reading and where we’re (not) just doing a party,” Singla said. “(It was) something in the middle of that, where we’re hanging out with our Hindu friends and learning more about ourselves at the same time.”

With branches across North America, Hindu YUVA aims to bring Hindu youth together to understand and appreciate the cultural and religious aspects of Hinduism.

Just a couple months after the NU chapter’s founding, it was able to connect to the larger Hindu YUVA community, according to Singla. In September, along with University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University, the NU chapter co-hosted 208 students from across the country at the Hindu YUVA National Summit Charaiveti in Chicago. The summit occurs every four years but was postponed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singla said it was “energizing” to see hundreds of people at the event. The summit inspired him to think more about his culture.

“Hinduism is not a specific religion based on a book,” Singla said. “It’s a way of life. But how do you reconcile those thoughts in your daily life?”

Singla said he also enjoyed the event’s communal activities, such as performances of bhajans — devotional Hindu songs —  and dances with glow sticks. He said Hindu YUVA at NU members are looking forward to hosting Wildcat Diwali Ramleela on Oct. 23, a celebration which will include performances from a classical music and dance group. 

Another central element of Hinduism is sewa, or public service, according to fourth-year Kellogg Ph.D. student and Hindu YUVA Events Coordinator Partha Mishra. One of the club’s goals is to aid the broader campus and city community through activities like volunteering with Campus Kitchen. 

“We wanted a platform where you can really do something more about society,” Mishra said. 

For some of the members, Singla and Tiwari included, Hindu YUVA is also a chance to define Hinduism on their own terms — including finding a way to celebrate their religion away from their homes and families.

Weinberg senior and Hinda YUVA Vice President Arushi Tiwari said she found a similar feeling of community in the organization’s on-campus chapter. Along with Hindu YUVA, Tiwari helps lead OM at NU as one of its co-presidents.

“Once you come to campus, for me at least, it was the first time I was away from home, and I was looking for a community on campus,” Tiwari said. “First, it was OM, and now it’s (also) Hindu YUVA. (They’ve) become like a home away from home.”

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Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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