Northwestern’s Hindu YUVA builds community

Hindu YUVA at Northwestern, a new student group founded in Spring Quarter, aspires to bring together a community that celebrates Hinduism beyond traditional texts.

Led by undergraduate and graduate students, the group aims to create a space that is both spiritual and social, fourth-year McCormick Ph.D. Akhil Singla, student and Hindu treasurer of YUVA.

“We needed a certain environment where we’re not just doing a scripture reading and where we’re (not) just having a party,” Singla said. “(It was) something in the middle of that, where we hang out with our Hindu friends and learn more about ourselves at the same time.”

With branches across North America, Hindu YUVA aims to bring young Hindus together to understand and appreciate the cultural and religious aspects of Hinduism.

Just months after founding the NU chapter, he was able to connect with the larger Hindu YUVA community, according to Singla. In September, along with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University, the NU Chapter co-hosted 208 students from across the country at the YUVA Charaiveti Hindu National Summit in Chicago. The summit takes place every four years but has been postponed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singla said it was “energizing” to see hundreds of people at the event. The summit inspired him to think more about his culture.

“Hinduism is not a specific book-based religion,” Singla said. “It’s a way of life. But how do you reconcile these thoughts in your daily life?”

Singla said he also enjoyed the event’s community activities, such as performances of bhajans – Hindu devotional songs – and dances with glow sticks. He said the Hindu members of YUVA at NU are looking forward to hosting Wildcat Diwali Ramleela on October 23, a celebration which will include performances by a classical music and dance group.

Another core element of Hinduism is sewa, or public service, according to Kellogg’s fourth-year doctorate. Partha Mishra, Student and Coordinator of YUVA Hindu Events. One of the club’s goals is to help the broader campus and city community through activities such as volunteering with Campus Kitchen.

“We wanted a platform where you can really do something more for society,” Mishra said.

For some of the members, Singla and Tiwari included, Hindu YUVA is also a chance to define Hinduism on their own terms – including finding a way to celebrate their religion away from home and their families.

Weinberg senior and Hinda YUVA vice president Arushi Tiwari said she found a similar sense of community in the organization’s campus chapter. Along with Hindu YUVA, Tiwari helps lead OM at NU as one of its co-chairs.

“Once you arrived on campus, for me at least, it was my first time away from home, and I was looking for community on campus,” Tiwari said. “First it was OM, and now it’s (also) the Hindu YUVA. (They have) become like a home away from home.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @kaavya_butaney

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