Garba Raas in Champaign Urbana

Every year during the period of Navratri, the Indian Association at Urbana Champaign brings the festive vibe with Garba Raas and pooja. Garba is a form of dance that originated in the state of Gujarat, India.

Dancers performing Garba in Gujarat

Dancers performing Garba in Gujarat

It is usually performed for nine nights of Navratri around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of goddess Durga, the feminine form of Divinity. Garba comes from the Sanskrit word Garbha that translates as womb, signifying ‘Source of Life’. Revolving dancers in concentric cycles represent the cycles of life, death, and rebirth with the only thing constant as the goddess, who represents the source of life.

The modern form of Garba is called Dandiya Raas which is traditionally performed by men using a pair of wooden sticks. Nowadays, Garba and Dandiya are merged together, creating a high energy dance form. The origin of the dance is traced back to the legendary myth of the fight between Goddess Durga and mighty demon king Mahishasura—the dance is an homage to their mythical fight. The dance sticks represent the sword and the dance form honors Durga’s victory over the demon.

Men, women and children wear traditional dresses with colorful embroidery and mirrors and dance to the music of the dhol, a type of double-headed drum, and Gujarati folk songs. The women and girls wear chaniya choli, a three piece dress with a colorful embroidered blouse decorated with mirrors, shells, beads and stars, a flared skirt and a long scarf wrapped around in the traditional way. They also adorn themselves with beautiful jewelry. Men wear a top called a kedia and pants known at pyjama, or a dhoti with an oxidized bracelet and a necklace.

The Indian Association of Urbana Champaign strives to provide a common identity for the local Indian community and facilitate cultural, social and educational services and opportunities for cultural integration for people of all ages. They also foster those activities that enhance mutual understanding and appreciation between the Indo-American community and the mainstream American community. They organize Garba and Dandiya Raas usually on the second weekend of Navratri. This year, it was at ‘Brookens Center Urbana Park District’ on Sep 22nd and 29th, Friday and Saturday. I was delighted to be part of the celebration this year. The event began with the opening prayer to Goddess Durga which included lighting the lamp and singing religious songs. The dancers began gathering around the statue of the goddess in concentric circles and started dancing to the Gujarati folk music played by the DJ. There were men, women, children and elderly people, all decked out in beautiful colors. With the soft beats, people started matching each other rhythms and following a pattern. It was amazing to see how they could sync with each other’s movements in an orderly way and generate a beautiful dynamic form.

Dancers forming a circle around the idol. People of all ages participated in the event.

Dancers forming a circle around the idol. People of all ages participated in the event.

 

Traditional Attire

Traditional Attire

Everyone was enjoying the dance form and participated with full spirit. Often women lead the men in the dance. They would clap their hands, step forward and backward, swirl around and move ahead repeating the pattern. Even the elderly were dancing passionately! Apart from the Indian families in attendance, there were a lot of U of I students that excitedly participated in Garba Raas. A lot of those students weren’t part of the Gujarati community, but had come to celebrate the auspicious time of Navratri and to experience the pleasure of this traditional dance form. Experts in Garba including both students and adults, were there to teach to the rhythms of Garba to the uninitiated. Even the newbies were merged into the circles and helped them grow larger and larger. I was keen on learning these fascinating dance steps and was guided well by friends who were skilled at it. Soon I could swing like other dancers and became a part of the concentric formations of dance.

The newbies trying to learn to dance

The newbies trying to learn to dance

After a while, the dancing switched from Garba to Dandiya where people started using sticks, holding one in each hand, and dancing around the idol. I was excited to try the colorful sticks for dancing. There were several smaller groups that began creating their own rhythm with sticks clashing against each other on the beats of the songs. I started dancing with 5 other people, forming pairs within the group and continuously switching partners while dancing with the music. The songs were mostly fast paced now, with swift movements and changing partners after every beat or two. Beads of sweat glistening on almost every dancer’s forehead, the enthusiasm was too high to tire them. Those small groups merged into one big circle that was creating a spiritual energy focused in the center of the hall towards goddess Durga.

Dancing with Dandiya

Dancing with Dandiya

There were refreshments too including lemonade, savory Indian snacks like samosa, and desserts like gulab jamun and kheer. Set up on a table in one corner, whenever the music would get a little low, people would take short breaks and refresh themselves with food, feeling all the more energetic for continuing their dance.

The whole dance session came to end with an elaborate worship ritual of the Goddess Durga by everyone. A priest, with a plate containing flowers, a fruit and an oil lamp offered the Goddess his and everyone else’s devotion and prayer. All of us sang the devotional songs in unison and thanked the goddess for the blissful life, family, friends, and a chance to celebrate these auspicious days with them.

Worshipping the Goddess

Worshipping the Goddess

The celebration brought students, families and even non-native Indians together, irrespective of which part of India or the world are they from. No one identified there as a Gujarati, Bengali or Punjabi, but as someone who came to immerse himself/herself into the magnanimous aura of the Goddess Durga and the power-packed dance form. Many Indian students and family here miss their country, hometown, and families– most especially during Navratri and Diwali.  This is the third year that I am away from home for Navratri and Diwali celebration and this period always makes me wanting to go home but the celebration made me feel as if I have a family here as well that celebrates the festive spirit with such love and warmth. Events and celebrations like these bring us closer and let us form one big family here, away from home, rejoicing in our culture, traditions, and values no matter where we are in the world.

Saloni Chawla
Graduate Teaching Assistant
Department of Landscape Architecture
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

 

References:

 

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Celebrate WTD: Travel Sustainably!

Do you enjoy seeing the world?  Exploring your country?  Maybe just visiting the next town over?  No matter if you prefer traveling on or off the beaten path, you have reason to celebrate…

Just this past year, over 1.2 billion travelers made their way across international borders in search of adventure, with that number expected to grow by more than 600 million over the next three years. (Rifai, Official Messages on World Tourism Day, 2017)   It’s no surprise, then, that we find tourism sitting pretty as the world’s 3rd-largest industry (Rifai, 2017), nor that big of a stretch to guess that you, or someone you know, thoroughly enjoys traveling.

But what does it mean to travel?

I’ve been lucky enough to study abroad in both Cuernavaca and Barcelona; to explore with my family a swath of Western Europe (Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy); to present at a conference in Finland; and even to spend nearly a year living and working on my own in Buenos Aires.  Each trip I took was motivated by a unique mix of goals and desires, and I’ve no doubt that the same goes for anyone else who has found themselves on a journey abroad:

 

 

Sometimes we travel to study, to immerse ourselves in a fascinating culture and language.

 

 

 

 

 

Other times we travel to learn about ourselves, find our limits and step outside our comfort zones.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe we travel for the adventure, the thrill of encountering the unfamiliar and reveling in its newness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes we travel to escape, to get away from it all and relax for a while.

 

 

 

All too often, however, travelers focus solely on what they will get from a trip abroad, forgetting that they, too, have an impact on the places they visit—travel and tourism is not a one-way street, after all. With this in mind, and in celebration of #WTD2017, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has released a variety of resources to help travelers be sure that their impact is a positive one.  Click on the pictures below to check them out:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimately, if we can remember to TRAVEL, ENJOY, and RESPECT, we can be sure that we are having a positive impact on the economy, environment, and, most importantly, the people of the places our travels take us.

 

Resources

Rifai, T. (2017, September 27). Official Messages on World Tourism Day. Retrieved from World Tourism Day | World Tourism Organization: http://wtd.unwto.org/official-messages-world-tourism-day

UNWTO. (2017, September 27). Tips for a Responsible Traveler. Retrieved from World Tourism Day | World Tourism Organization: http://wtd.unwto.org/official-messages-world-tourism-day

UNWTO. (2001). Global Code of Ethics for Tourism: For Responsible Tourism. Retrieved from Global Code of Ethics for Tourism: http://cf.cdn.unwto.org/sites/all/files/docpdf/gcetbrochureglobalcodeen.pdf

UNWTO. (2017). World Tourism Day Homepage. Retrieved from World Tourism Day | World Tourism Organization: http://wtd.unwto.org/

*All photos unrelated to the UNWTO and World Tourism Day are the personal property of the author.

 

 

Erin Shores

Graduate Assistant | International and Area Studies Library

MSLIS Candidate | School of Information Sciences

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Climate Change and Feminism

By Aminah Koshul

http://www.predictions2016.com/2017/01/27/five-technological-innovations-identified-to-tackle-climate-change/

The pervasive nature of social justice is such that it demands we connect the two seemingly unrelated issues of climate change and feminism. A surface-level analysis of both issues does little to reveal the extent to which the two are related. However, it is important to recognize that an integral component of sustainable development is curbing climate change, which we erroneously view within the framework of technological advancements alone.

It is true that technology may mitigate problems related to climate change, but to propose an effective solution with both short-term and long-term goals, human activity must be distinguished as the root cause behind it. Social issues such as overconsumption and overpopulation are primarily responsible for driving the negative effects of climate change. Accordingly, it is necessary to seek out solutions that are not based in technology alone and are preventative rather than reactionary in nature. Carbon tax and solar panels may be a good start, but they do not even begin to combat the deep-seated social issues, such as poverty and gender inequality, which contribute to climate change.

http://womengenderclimate.org/category/news/ and http://www.soroptimistinternational.org/advocacy-roundup-si-un-reps-help-give-a-global-voice-to-women-and-girls/

Climate change and feminism can go hand-in-hand if we empower women with work and educational opportunities that diversify their role in society beyond wives and mothers. This facilitates population control by reducing birth rates, which is essential to maintaining current rates of consumption without depleting resources. Such initiatives can be introduced in both the global north and south by granting women bodily autonomy at the policy level, as well as at the social and behavioral level.

http://web.unep.org/gender/

The United Nations Gender and the Environment Program (UNEP) promotes a gender-inclusive approach geared towards sustainable development. It recognizes that sustainability requires the inclusion of all sectors of society, especially those that are most vulnerable to climate change. UNEP has adopted gender mainstreaming policies in which women’s interests are recognized in the implementation and evaluation of programs in political, economic and social spheres.

 

https://www.facebook.com/WhatToDoAboutClimateChange/

 

This is obviously easier said than done, but it provides a more sustainable solution to climate change that can be affected in both large-scale, institutional and small-scale, individual scenarios. Countering climate change requires an agenda more comprehensive than engineering affordable green technology, and by aligning the goals of sustainable development with social justice, we can envision a world which manifests the principles necessary to build a brighter future.

References

Loring, P., Boucher, M.J. (2017, March 21). Climate change is more than a tech problem, so we need more than a tech solution. Retrieved from Eco-Business: http://www.eco-business.com/opinion/climate-change-is-more-than-a-tech-problem-so-we-need-more-than-a-tech-solution/

United Nations Environment (n.d.). Welcome to Gender and the Environment. Retrieved from United Nations Environment: http://web.unep.org/gender/

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Why I Think You Should Meet Elizabeth Wickes

By Matt Hendrick

If you’ve ever lost a folder or spent hours trying to find an old file, Elizabeth Wickes (who works with Heidi Imker, the Head of the Research Data Service (RDS), and her colleagues Elise Dunham, Colleen Fallaw, and Qian Zhang) can help you. Elizabeth is a Data Curation Specialist at the RDS who helps researchers and students learn how to properly organize and manage their data.

Help from Elizabeth can even be the reason you receive or do not receive federal funding. If you ever plan on applying for a federal grant, you will likely need to create a Data Management Plan (DMP). If you have no idea what a Data Management Plan is, the RDS can help you. If you do know what a DMP is, but don’t know how to create one or want some feedback on a draft, the RDS can help you.

Last semester, I had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth and ask her about the RDS, Data Management Plans, and the best practices for organizing data.

  1. What is the Research Data Service?

The Research Data Service is dedicated to helping Illinois researchers manage and steward their data throughout the research process. When I say data, I can mean whatever you are using to base your conclusions off of. People often say “I don’t have data.” You do. Everyone has data. You are basing your conclusions on something. This can be books, specimens, interviews, statistics, etc.

  1. What services does the RDS offer?

We have three core services: data management workshops and consultations, Data Management Plan creation help, and the Illinois Data Bank. Our workshops and one-on-one consultations are usually the best place to get started with data management and gives us an opportunity to discuss your specific situation and give you personalized advice on how to manage your data. You can book a personal consultation at http://go.illinois.edu/bookRDS. The RDS also holds regular workshops (in collaboration with the Scholarly Commons) covering various data management and data publishing topics. In addition, we offer customized data management talks or workshops to fit the needs of teams of all sizes and disciplines. We’ll be talking about the Illinois Data Bank and Data Management Plans later on.

  1. Who can use the RDS and attend its workshops?

Everyone is welcome to attend the RDS workshops; no I-Card is required. The RDS is designed to help research and data management from all individuals, at all stages. Undergraduates, graduates, and faculty have access to all of the RDS’s services.

  1. How should researchers handle data that is either confidential, private, or proprietary?

We help a great many researchers with sensitive data, but our advice is very dependent on the type of data and the context. For example, for scholars with sensitive humanities data the RDS recommends our institutional Box for storage. UIUC’s Box is approved for IRB storage and, when permissions are set up appropriately, it is one of the easiest ways to manage and share IRB data with a project team. When it comes to sensitive data and human subjects, the IRB is always the final word. We would not give the same recommendation to scholars with HIPAA data (health data), as that has very explicit legal requirements. Whatever issues you may have with sensitive data, we will walk you through the process and give you advice tailored to your specific situation.

  1. What are the best practices of data management?

Among the two most important data management steps an individual can take are: keeping secure backups of all their data (Box or an encrypted external hard drive) and maintaining personal computer security (see our library’s “Computer Security Tips” and the Technology Service’s information on security for more information).

Some general best practices for organizing your data include: having consistent and unique file names, avoiding special characters and spaces (use underscores instead), and including a version number and date for all your files (with consistent formatting). See the RDS’s pages on “Saving and Sharing Your Data” and “Organizing Your Data” for more detailed information. We also offer private consultations to help you develop and implement an organizational system.

  1. What is a Data Management Plan (DMP) and why would someone create one?

In 2013, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memo mandating that federally funded research programs must be open access and have a plan for data management (beginning in 2015). Today, many federal grant applications must have a Data Management Plan (DMP). So if you haven’t submitted a grant in the last couple years, this will probably be new to you.

While DMP requirements do differ from funder to funder, they are usually one or two page documents that answer the specific questions of the funder. The general purpose is to explain how you will manage, secure, acquire, and share your data. You will also have to explain what your data will be, how you’ll manage it during the project, and how you’ll store it after the project is done. The level of detail they expect varies by funder and some funders place higher levels of emphasis on the DMP. Some funders consider it a key element of the grant portfolio, while others do not. You cannot simply presume the DMP is not going to matter; an increasing number of funders who initially didn’t place a great deal of emphasis on the DMP, now do.

It is primarily faculty who are applying for these funding opportunities and are required to create a DMP, but we are seeing more grad students and post-docs needing to submit ones for fellowship project applications. Also, any graduate student who is planning to remain in academia and applies for a federal grant will have to create a Data Management Plan. Sometimes graduate assistants working for a faculty member may also be involved in this process, but every team works differently. The DMP creation plan process can also be valuable for a team as they create new projects, because it makes you ask and answer many tough questions. Pain points can be discovered early on in the process rather than during crunch times.

  1. How can RDS with the process of creating a Data Management Plan?

If you send us your proposal, the call you are responding to, and a draft of your Data Management Plan, we will take a look at all those documents and provide you with expert advice. We have an entire network of subject specialists that we bring in who know your subject and your funders. The process is entirely confidential and is as simple as sending out an email to researchdata@library.illinois.edu. We also have a short list of best practices that goes over the biggest pain points we see coming in on a regular basis.

  1. What is the difference between IDEALS (Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship) and the Illinois Data Bank?

IDEALS and the Illinois Data Bank are our institutional repositories for research and scholarship. You can think of them as sibling repositories. They are intentionally separated as it is more efficient. In short, IDEALS is primarily designed for texts (dissertation, theses, papers, presentations, manuscripts, etc.) while the Illinois Data Bank is primarily designed and optimized for data. This method of dividing our data storage allows us to maximize the metadata that is being transmitted; essentially, this makes your data more discoverable and reusable.

  1. What can scholars of the humanities deposit in these repositories?

You cannot deposit anything that is under copyright or data that is sensitive (such as protected human subject data), but this is something that we can help you navigate. You do have the ability, as an alternative, to deposit your derivative data files. For example, if you are doing topic modeling on copyrighted novels, you can’t deposit the novels, but you can deposit the topic modeling information that you have created and are basing your research on. Additionally, you can deposit any field notes that you have; you can de-identify these to whatever extent you wish (so long as you are in compliance with the IRB and your participant consent).

  1. Do you have any general advice for students regarding the RDS and our library in general?

I want to encourage all students to look at all the services the library offers outside of just the collections. The library is a lot more than simply books. In addition to the RDS, we have a many experts and services that can help with a broad range of issues related to your research. I also advise students and faculty to take advantage of our library’s consultation services; these can be a tremendous resource and they are often overlooked.

The Research Data Service is on the south side of the third floor of the Main library in the rooms of 310-312. They do not have a patron-facing area and usually use the neighboring Scholarly Commons area for their meetings. You can set up a meeting by calling their phone number (217-300-3513) or sending an email to researchdata@library.illinois.edu.

In addition to Elizabeth Wickes, the staff of the RDS includes Heidi Imker (Director), Colleen Fallaw (Research Programmer), Elise Dunham (Data Curation Specialist), and Qian Zhang (CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation with CIRSS).

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