They go around the lamp in reverence

They go around the lamp in reverence

folk dance

They go around the lamp in reverence

Navratri is just over. Read any newspaper or play any television channel, the one item that we couldn’t miss during this festive season was the celebration of the season with garba, the most popular folk dance of Gujarat.

This dance is so popular that people, irrespective of their age, take part in it.

Attired in colourful ethnic wear,  marked by heavily embroidered ghagra cholis and bandhni dupattas glittering with mirror work, revellers reach pandals, specially erected for the celebrations, and dance away to glory till their feet tire. The origin of this dance is as interesting as the dance itself, with the tradition dating back to ancient days when Gujarati women performed this dance to please Goddess Durga and pray for the victory of their husbands at war. The word garba has been derived from ‘garbhdeep’, meaning lighting a lamp on a water pot to worship the goddess.

This dance is performed with the dancers dancing in a circle around an attractively decorated earthen pot inside which a diya is placed. These pots that play a significant role during garba are generally painted in white and bright red, and embellished with mirrors, beads, pearls and zari. Although red and white seem to be the most preferred colours, it is not unusual to find the garba pots in orange, blue, green and yellow too. With the design of the pots incorporating tiny holes in them, these pots make for an eye-catching sight with light from the diya seen through the holes in them. Mirror ornamentation adds to the overall effect of these pots. In certain small towns, young girls go around dancing the garba with these pots on their heads.

Garba, which is more about the movement of hands and legs, in tune with the beats of traditional music, is rythmic. The songs that accompany garba narrate stories of Lord Krishna and follow the traditional aarti.

Garba has seen several changes down the years. Traditionally, it is learnt that only women danced the garba, but nowadays, even men join in, adding colour and variety to the festive occasion. And, it has become a part and parcel of all festive occasions, including Sharad Purnima, Vasant Panchami and Holi.

So popular is this dance form that non-Gujaratis in the other states of our country too have taken to the tradition of dancing the garba during Navratri. This is not all, there are special workshops being held to teach girls to dance garba. Sadly, many old-timers rue the fact that traditional prayers that accompanied garba are now being replaced by beats from Bollywood numbers.

However, irrespective of the music played during garba, this dance form rules Navratri.

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