Navratri is a Hindu festival, popular in Indian states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, West Bengal, Bihar and some Northern States. The celebrations last for 10 days, and it has no fixed dates. It begins with the Ashvin Shukla Prathma and ends with Ashvin Shukla Navami, as per the Hindu lunar calendar. It is a festival dedicated to the worship of Goddess Durga. The first nine days are marked with the worship of various forms of Shakti/Devi (Goddesses), the tenth day is known as Dusherra which marks the end of Ravana, the demon god. The festival is widely celebrated in North India too, but the infamous Garba dances which are a large part of are mainly organized in Gujarat.
Garba is a Sanskrit word literally meaning womb and so implies gestation or basically-Life. The dances are traditionally performed around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or status of the Goddess Shakti/Durga, thus honouring the female form of Divinity. The dance take place in concentric circles and both men and women participate in it with equal enthusiasm. The circles signify the Life process which adhere to Hindu beliefs, that is birth, death, rebirth, the only thing which is constant during all this is the Goddess, hence her statue or image is kept in the centre to depict her immortality and stationary position.
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Garba during Navratri is an extremely high powered event which can also be seen as a mixture of various kinds of dance forms, including Sufi dance styles and even modern dance styles. Men and women wear colourful clothes, preferably with a lot of mirror work which addes to the vibrancy of the night. Women wear a three piece choli, with has a lehenga or a long, flowy skirt which has a lot of volume in bright colours like red, yellow, pink, a colourful Blouse and a dupatta worn in the traditional Gujrati style. The cholis are elaborately designed, brightly coloured and decorated with beads, mirrors, shells,bandini work embroidery work and the women also adorn themselves with heavy and blingy jewellery. So if you are thinking about wearing that large gold necklace you have, go ahead, youâ€™ll fight right in. The dressing for men is a bit complicated, as boys and men wear kafni pyjamas, though very spacey and made of light materials like cotton, they could be a little uncomfortable for first timers. On top, men wear a kediyu, which is a shirt with a rounded bottom and they also have to wear a pagdi, a head turban made from a dupatta, generally red in colour, in Gujarati style which can only be made by experts.
This colourful dance has also spread throughout the nation. Dandiya, another form of Garba which is performed with decorated and coloured wooden sticks is also very popular. Both Garba and Dandiya are performed at many school/college functions in many Indian states, which shows their popularity and also cultural influence of the Guajaratiâ€™s. Itâ€™ll be surprising to know that during Navratri, this dance is performed at various places in United Kingdom (UK), Canada, and Australia where a large number of Gujarati communities are living since many years. Even the locals of those regions are attracted to this dance form, because of its simplicity, and its colourful nature and the passion and excitement included.
Garba has gained popularity not only due to its vibrant nature but also because of the Media. During Navratri nights, Garba dances are aired on television live, which grab a lot of attention and also attract people to take part in it. Even movies like Kai Po Che have played a major role in popularizing the Guajarati culture. Nowadays, special songs are also being created which are tailor made to suit the Garba dance steps.
Looking at the special attention Garba has been receiving you can be assured the dance is no less than special and energetic, which leaves one with a sense of happiness, a bit of tiredness, but energized at the heart in the end. Navratri is the best time to visit Gujarat when the streets are lined with colourful lamps and Garba Nights, and even dance competitions are held almost every day with people from all over the world wanting a piece of this Gujarati dance.