Hindu community gathers to celebrate Garba Night and ‘a little of bit home’


Selena Favela

A child dances during the Garba Night.

Wichita State University students and members of the local Hindu community joined together for Garba Night, an evening of traditional festivities, in the Beggs Ballroom of the RSC Saturday night.

Put together by AHINSA (Association of Hindu Students in America), the event combined several elements of the Hindu and Indian cultures, such as dancing, eating and making offerings. Though the event was held at the university, it was open to the public, including people who were not a part of the cultures being celebrated.

Aditya Sanjay Holkar, assistant treasurer of AHINSA, said the organization continuously strives to encourage cultural celebration and educate others about the Hindu faith.

“We celebrate all cultures here,” Holkar said. “We enlighten students to spread unity and a positive hope.”

Neelam Bhakta, a member of the Wichita-area Hindu community, helped make the event possible.

“There are a couple different Indian communities around Wichita,” Bhakta said. “And to make the event able to run, we have to work together.”

Bhakta said she hopes everyone who attended found something meaningful to take from the experience.

“For the Indian students, a little bit of home since most of them are new here,” Bhakta said. “And from people who are not of the faith, culture.”

Garba Night is more than just celebration and festivities. It’s also part of an annual nine day religious festival known as Nautari.

“There are nine goddesses,” Holkar said. “We pray to those goddesses over nine days by prayer and doing the traditional Garba dance.”

Attendees were told to remove their shoes, then honored the goddess Amba in unity by dancing barefoot around a centerpiece decorated with her image.

Vishal Sharma, a doctoral aerospace engineering student, has attended Garba Night several times.

“I’ve been coming the past three years because my friends are members of the organization,” Sharma said. “It’s fun because we get to meet Indian people around Wichita and other people can come learn about our culture.”

Tejendra Mistry, treasurer of the AHINSA, said he is excited to see more and more faces each year.

“We’ve been getting larger and larger,” Mistry said. “At first, we started with maybe 100 people, but this year we’re at around 250-300, and we just keep expanding. The event is free and anyone can come. The offerings that we make to the goddesses, like the fruit and everything that we bring or donate, gets shared with everyone at the end of the night. We all eat, dance, celebrate and it’s just a lot of fun.”