Navratri festival brings nine nights of light to Niles
The local Gujarati community celebrates the Hindu festival of Navratri with a garba, a traditional Gujarati cultural dance, Saturday at the Feldman Recreation Center in Niles. | Jeff Krage~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 31, 2012 5:43PM
NILES — Dressed in vibrant, intricately beaded saris and chaniya-cholis, Hindu women danced in a circle around a table with a symbol of the Mother Goddess during the last evening of the Navratri festival Saturday.
The Navratri Festival is significant because it celebrates the Mother Goddess, Durga, and the idea of good triumphing over evil. During the nine-night celebration of worship and dance, Hindus throughout Chicagoland celebrate and worship at their temples.
About 300 members of a community group called POSUN came together Oct. 27 at the Golf-Maine Park District’s Feldman Recreation Centerto celebrate Navratri. The members are from five different villages in the state of Gujarat in India — Pij, Ode, Sunav, Uttarsanda and Nar — which make up the acronym of the group.
The traditional dances of Gujarat are known as garba and raas. During the garba, dancers circle an image of Durga, dancing to traditional drum beats; during the raas, partners tap decorated sticks. Fasting is also a part of the Navratri festival, which leads up to the Gujarati new year.
Young girls, dressed in colorful, traditional blouses and skirts, played together, while the older girls and women of all ages participated in the garba. Other women, also wearing the traditional saris, enjoyed watching the dances.
“I love it,” said 19-year-old Sama Patel, of Niles, who was eager to jump back in the lively circle and join the other women dancing. She said it is fun to get dressed up in the beautiful, colorful saris and dance with her family and friends.
“I would do it all day if I could,” said Sama, who has been participating in the Navratri festival for the past 12 years.
“It means a lot,” said Prithi Patel, who said Navratri is a significant family tradition. “I do it every year.”
Though the footwork and spins in the dances may appear complicated, the women have been doing the traditional dances for years, so they say it’s become natural for them.
“As a kid, they came with their moms,” explained Ansuya Patel, of Schaumburg. “It’s been a part of them.”
Ansuya Patel said she enjoys seeing people socializing and dancing with everyone and coming together to worship the Divine Goddess.
According to Ansuya, the Mother Goddess represents the love that people have for their own mothers, which she said is the strongest kind of love.
While the women were downstairs in the gym dancing around the Goddess, men of various ages, including young boys, were enjoying authentic Indian cuisine in the banquet room.
POSUN started in 1997 and now has more than 400 families registered as members of the group.
Suryakant Patel, the organizer of Saturday’s event, said he was pleased with the good turnout for the spiritual and meaningful holiday.