ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA, October 21, 2013(Los Angeles Times): Two thousand Hindu Indians converged at the Anaheim Convention Center for Southern California's largest celebration of Navratri, an ancient tradition stretching nine days. Indians of all ages arrived in their finest clothing: silk saris, mirrored beads and embroidered scarfs. Prakash Vyas, a 27-year-old graduate student joined in as they gathered on the arena floor barefoot and danced in coordinated circles around portraits of the Goddess looking down from the center of the room. It was a festive, hypnotic-like ritual that went on for hours.
The event is organized by the International Swaminarayan Satsang Organization's temple in Norwalk. It started 35 years ago with a few hundred people in a church auditorium. Today, it goes on for three consecutive weekends at the convention center and draws more than 7,000 people. It is a grand social gala, a place to connect with old friends, to laugh and dance endlessly--potentially, even, to find a suitor. Most of the Indians who celebrate Navratri at the convention center are from Gujarat, a state in the northwest coast of India. They are families who have known each other for decades. In recent years, the event has evolved and become more influenced by Western culture. The band will play a bit of salsa or the Macarena.
More non-Indians have also begun to show up at the dance, often invited by Indian friends. They arrive decked in borrowed saris, mesmerized by the pageantry. Andrew Fuller, a 46-year-old production manager from Newport Beach, attended his first garba four years ago. He hasn't missed one since."I was amazed," he said, his plaid blue and white button-up shirt and jeans standing out in a sea of silk and vibrant colors. "The energy, the kindness, the openness. They welcomed me from the start and showed me how to dance."