Synchronising the steps

Synchronising the steps

A woman in Kamkha.

Come September, people all over the City gear up to celebrate the nine days of Navratri. There are specially designated spaces which come alive with the sound, colour and pageantry of the Garba/Dandiya.

A form of community dancing rooted in religious tradition, the Garba originated in Gujarat and is performed by a group of women dancing around a lamp (the Garba Deep) or an image of the Goddess Amba, which is placed in the centre of an arrangement of concentric rings. Rasa, on the other hand, is a circle formed by dancing men and women, to the accompaniment of musical instruments, keeping time either by clapping their hands or beating two sticks called Dandiyas.

 “Modern Garba is influenced by Raas, a dance traditionally performed by men. The current version is trendy, high energy and pretty much a fashion showcase for people of all ages,” says Pratima Mulani, who used to be on several Garba organising committees. The most popular venues in Bangalore are the Palace Grounds where the CTT Trust and the Vaishnavo Samaj organise the Dandiya evenings which start around 9.30 pm each night. The programme  usually begins with women and children dancing the garba, keeping the beat by clapping with their hands and gracefully twirling their colourful skirts. Aarti or worship takes place later in the evening followed by more dancing.

“We start preparing months before Navratri begins. From cosmetic treatments to wardrobe upgrades, some of my friends have got diamonds set in their teeth in a special dental procedure in time for Dandiya nights. Others have already pierced their belly buttons but are getting special diamond ornaments made that will catch the light as they dance,” says Neetu Patel, an enthusiastic participant. “I have specially stitched nine different outfits so that I do not repeat anything,” she adds.

According to Shefali Gupta, “Lehiriya ghaghras are very in this year. I have ordered some of my outfits from a special village in Gujarat which specialises in Kutchi mirror work while others have been locally designed with  traditional patchwork. Our Navratri Chaniyas are elaborate with embroidered mirror work and the flare needs to be at least nine metres in width, made from  light fabrics like cotton, silk, chiffon, organza or satin and free flowing so that it twirls correctly.

Short cholis are more popular than the long ones with a range of  backless tie-ups, bustiers, noodle straps and halters. Teamed up with oxidised jewellery or traditional gold, accessories can range from jhumkas, necklaces, bindi, bajubandhs, chudas and kangans, payals to mojiris with gorgeous dupattas draped in the special Gujarati fashion. Boys, who want to go ethnic, wear kafni pajamas with a kediyu — a short round kurta — above the knees, a bandhini  pagadi and dupatta, with  kada and mojiris instead of the simple kurta pajama.”

Sunitha Shah prefers to wear a Kamkha, a traditional Gujarati backless blouse embroidered on the front with Chudla which are Rabaran bangles worn over the entire arm. “Even our Dandiyas are customised differently depending on taste. From metallic and colourful acrylics which are light and attractive to wooden ones which are sometimes decorated with tiny bells or covered with silk or fabric,” she explains.

 “There is a competition for dancing and style with the crowning of the winners, the Prince and Princess on the last day,” adds Pratima.

With stalls selling a huge variety of vegetarian food including some of the Gujarati delicacies like dhokla, khandvi, ganthiya and kachoris and intoxicating beat of the music, these Dandiya venues are patronised by a cross-section of society who join in the celebrations each year. 

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