Hindu YUVA hosts Mahashivratri ceremony celebrating marriage of Shiva and Parvati


Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern

Hindu YUVA President Sparsh Gautam conducted a shortened version of a Hindu wedding ceremony during the Mahashivratri event Sunday. The event featured the wedding ceremony, performances and interactive activities.

Kaavya Butaney, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern’s Hindu YUVA hosted a Mahashivratri celebration Sunday in Parkes Hall with a modified wedding ceremony, interactive activities, bharatanatyam and musical performances.

Mahashivratri — which translates to “great night of Shiva” from Sanskrit — celebrates the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, two important deities in Hinduism.

The event included rangoli and garland making, henna, clay art and diya painting. Attendees also ate appetizers and a traditional Indian meal.

Hindu YUVA executive board member and Weinberg sophomore Kushal Mungee said the event had been in the works for about a month.

“This is Hindu YUVA’s first full year, so it’s something we thought we could celebrate on a big scale in the Winter Quarter,” Mungee said. “We thought a little bit before (finals) — it would be a good event for people to destress.”

Hindu YUVA President and McCormick senior Sparsh Gautam, who presided over a shortened version of the ceremony, explained the significance of each segment while involving volunteers from the audience.

A woman posing with her hands in gestures.
Weinberg sophomore Aditi Ram performs a bharatanatyam dance that symbolizes both Shiva and Parvati in honor of the holiday. (Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern)

Toward the end of the event, two bharatanatyam dancers — psychology third-year Ph.D. student Gayathri Subramanian and Weinberg sophomore Aditi Ram — performed holiday-inspired individual dances. Hindustani singer and third-year materials science and engineering Ph.D. student Amol Agarwal also sang a raga.

Ram, who has been practicing bharatanatyam since she was 6 years old, said dance is an outlet which allows her to connect with and learn about Hinduism. 

But, bharatanatyam is not just a physical exercise, she said.

“It’s not a passive dance,” Ram said. “Every single movement, every single expression has a thought behind it … I love exploring how to express different stories, characters, moods and such, through movement and expression.”

Ram added that she appreciated how Hindu YUVA “deconstructed” the Hindu wedding and made it interactive for everyone attending.

Hindu YUVA Vice President and Weinberg senior Arushi Tiwari said the organization spoke with a professional Hindu priest to make the ceremony more understandable for students by translating Sanskrit chanting into English and highlighting the key messages within the traditions.

Tiwari said it was important for the mock ceremony to be educational, but not long and boring. Typically, Hindu weddings take hours, but Gautam’s abbreviated version only took about 15 minutes.

Balloon sign with the words “Mahashivratri” in capital letters.
Hindu YUVA hosted the Mahashivratri event near the end of the quarter to give students an opportunity to destress and enjoy the holiday, event coordinators said. (Kaavya Butaney/The Daily Northwestern)

Mungee said celebrating the holiday with a large group of people allowed him to help people learn about his beliefs.

“It’s an opportunity for me to share my love for my culture and heritage,” Mungee said. “It’s something (through) which I’m able to bond with the community here.”

Weinberg freshman Ved Muthusamy said Mahashivratri holds significance for him as he has previously celebrated the holiday in his home. He said he was happy to explain the holiday’s significance to those attending as he hosted the station where attendees made clay lingams, or statues of Shiva.

Tiwari said she typically celebrates the Mahashivratri with her friends and family, with food and sweets. Her culture is a comfort and a home away from home, she added.

“(NU is) a really hard atmosphere sometimes,” Tiwari said. “Bringing those little things that I’ve grown up doing at home to campus and finding people who enjoy celebrating them with me just makes the whole undergraduate experience a lot more enjoyable.”

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Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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