The Garba (dance) that is performed during the auspicious nine days of Navratri is a very popular folk dance of Gujarat. The term “garba” is associated with the Sanskrit word “Garbha” meaning ‘womb”. The word also means light inside the earthen pot. The light represents life and the pot is the womb that carries this light.
The dance is performed by women, men and children on all the nine days of Navratri. The dance is performed at night to the beat of rhythmic music. Apart from Navratri the dance is also performed on Holi, Sharad Purnima and Vasanth Purnima. The dance is considered a symbolic representation of God in the feminine form.
The musical accompaniments that form part of the dance and give it a unique identity are Damru, Ektaro, Hattho, Jantar, Murli, Nagara, Pavo, Pot Drum, Percussion Tabla, Ravan, Shehani Turi and Taturi. All these are ancient musical instruments and have been used for many centuries.
The songs that accompany the music are sung in praise of Goddess Amba. They are sung to invoke her blessings. This dance form has been associated with the raas leela of Lord Krishna and it was popularized by him. The granddaughter of Lord Krishna, Usha was instrumental in popularizing the Lasya Nritya. This ancient dance form later came to be known as Garba dance.
Men and women are dressed at their colorful best during the nine days of song and dance. The traditional dress that is worn by women is known as “chaniya cholis” and those worn by men are known as “kedias”. These dresses are mostly hand made by artisans and there is a lot of glass and shells used to make them more appealing.
Apart from wearing these colorful dresses, women adorn themselves with many accessories that add to the beauty and appeal of the traditional attire. The other accessories include bajubandh, bindi, chudas, jhumkas, kangans, kamarbandh, mojiris, necklaces and payal.
The garba dance starts at a slow pace and as the music starts to increase the tempo, it reaches a feverish pitch. It is usually done in groups of 5 – 50. There is no restriction on the number of people who can form part of the group.
When the dance is done in a group, it is usually done in a circular way. All the dancers will move in a circle and the big circle can break every now and then into a smaller circle. Men and women dance through the night in a never ending celebration of life. The drummer sits in the center of the circle and maintains the rhythm throughout the dance.
As the dancers move in circles it is known to represent the cycle of life (death and life)
During the nine days of navratri, you will find people from all walks of life participating in this wonderful dance form. This dance is not just popular in Gujarat but all over the world. It is not just popular among Gujaratis but people from other states of India to celebrate this unique form of dance.
There is a certain spirituality associated with Garba dance. As the dancers move in circles, it is one of the most visually appealing dance forms that you will ever see. There is an inherent beauty and charm associated with this dance that has mesmerized people for hundreds of years.
People get so engrossed in the rhythm of the music and dance that even those who have never danced in their entire life will be tempted to get up and dance. There are also competitions held across Gujarat to judge the best dance group.