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Festival Season Experiences
By Remy, YES Abroad 2014-2015, India
This festival season I was fortunate enough to celebrate both the Gujarati festival of Navratri and the Bengali festival of Durga Puja. Living in Gujarat with a Bengali family has been an incredible experience, and allowed me to learn about two different styles of Indian tradition.
I enjoyed the Garba of Navratri an incredible amount, and also got to participate in a dance program to celebrate Durga Puja. Before Durga Puja began on the 29th of September, my host family and I did Garba each night. On the 27th, our AFS chapter was invited to my school, D.N. High School, to sit in the VIP section and participate in Garba. This was a really wonderful opportunity, because we had prime seating to watch and photograph the dance, but also got to play Garba ourselves!
I really enjoyed this festival, and Durga Puja was just as incredible. This festival is celebrated primarily in West Bengal, and not in Gujarat, so the Anand Bengali Cultural Association (ABCA) brings all of the Bengalis living in our city together to celebrate. Each night there was a different cultural program, followed by a huge dinner. The programs were amazing! Even though I couldn't understand much of what was being said, just watching and listening to the songs and dances was really enjoyable.
On the final night of Durga Puja, my host mom and I, as well as another exchange student from my area and some other women from the ABCA, did a dance performance. We danced to two Hindi songs, Jai Ho and Des Rengila. We spent almost all of August and September preparing, and it was definitely worth it! The performance went very well, and afterwards, I got the chance to speak to everyone in attendance about my experience as a YES Abroad student in India thus far. On this night I felt like I really accomplished what I came to India for. Everyone is attendance was overjoyed to hear about my love for India, and very excited to see two foreign girls celebrating this festival like Bengalis. This will be one of my fondest memories from my exchange year!