Gujarat lies in the extreme West of India. Known for its love for culture and traditions, the state is rich in heritage. The people of Gujarat, known as Gujarati, are famous for their typical dance type known as ‘Raas Garba’. Every year during Navratri, the Gujaratis dance to tune of Garba songs.
Garba is a popular folk dance of Gujarat and has an ancient origin. It is believed that the dance was earlier performed by the women of Gujarat during Navratri festival. Raas Garba is performed in the honor of Ma Ambaji – the mother Goddess. It’s a typical dance style where women dance in a circle and around the picture of Goddess and a Diya (earthen lamp). The dance form in circle symbolizes the Hindu view of time as time is cyclical.
As life cycle revolves from birth to death to rebirth, the only thing that is forever constant is the Goddess- the unmoving force in the middle of the never ending movement. Similarly, the Raas Garba dance symbolizes that the Goddess is the only thing remains constant in the ever changing universe. They sing devotional songs and dance with much enthusiasm. Garba is derived from the word Garbhdip. A lamp is lit inside an earthen pot having holes and the people makes sure that the lamp remains alight for the 9 days of the Navaratri.
In earlier days, the women used to carry earthen pot on their head and perform Garba Dance. It was a belief that such performance will please the Goddess. The celebration continues for 9 days. For 9 days, every night women and children dress up in their traditional attire to dance to the Garba Beat. In present times, even the men dress up in traditional attire and join women in Raas Garba.
The women wear colorful Chaniya Choli with Odhani having beautiful embroidery and mirror work. Women prefer Tie and Dye Odhanis normally known as Bandhani. They also wear traditional jewelry like necklace, bangles, waist belt and oxidized earrings. Men dress up themselves in kurta pajama or kediyu and choini which are a typical Gujarati dress. Some also wear a Bandhani turban to style themselves up.
Raas Garba has gained a lot of fame over the last century. It has earned a place in the hearts of millions and so one can see that not only Gujaratis but others who live in Gujarat also take part in this celebration of 9 days. These days Raas Garba dance stages are set up by several organizers in a huge open grounds. Men and women get dressed in Gujarati Traditional dresses to dance to the beats of Garba songs. The night begins with an Aarti– a devotional song offered to Goddess. Thereafter a big circle is formed and people dance their heart out to the rhythms of Garba songs.
The organizers also arrange orchestra so that people can enjoy to their fill. Raas Garba is becoming very popular across the world nowadays. In United States, around 20 universities carry out competitions with professional choreography on Raas garba. Toronto in Canada also hosts the largest annual garba performance in North America. Raas Garba has also become much popular in United Kingdom where a significant number of Gujarati communities organize garba nights every year.
If you happen to be in Gujarat during Navratri then you should never miss the opportunity to see how adrenaline runs over with the beats of Garba song and how thousands of people get synced into the rhythm without skipping a beat.