Folk Dances of Gujarat
Garba dance is famous in all parts of India is originally a popular folk Dance of Gujarat. This dance form has connection
with Shakti-Puja i.e. worship of goddess having powers over all. Its origin is believed to be in the worship of goddess Jagdamba.
It is played in a circular form performed by ladies on the nine nights of Navaratri festival, Sharad Purnima, Vasant Panchami,
Holi and such other festive occasions. The word Garba is derived from the word `Garbha Deep` (a lamp inside a perforated earthen
pot). The light inside the perforated earthen pot symbolised the embryonic life. This also signifies value of knowledge (light),
as opposed to the darkness (ignorance).
In this folk dance, ladies place the pot known as Garba with the lamp on their heads and move in circular direction, singing
at the same time measure by clapping their palms or snapping their fingers, to the accompaniment of folk instruments. Even
in some villages of Gujarat, one would find tradition of a "Light" (Deevo-Kodiyun) in an earthen pot with the holes
all around, placed in the center on a stool and colourful dressed ladies dance around it clapping their hands in beats and
singing Mataji`s songs. A betel nut and a silver coin are placed within the pot, termed as Kumbh, on top of which a coconut
is placed. It is said that just as Lord Krishna popularized the Ras dance, Usha the grand daughter-in-law of Lord Krishna
is credited to have popularised Lasya Nritya, which is known today by the name of Garba dance.
Garba DanceThe actual dance performance begins at night after women finish their household work and become free. All participants
gather at open space or at street corners. An idol or photograph of the goddess is kept in the centre and circle is formed
around it. During the nine nights of Navratri, in village street as well as urban localities, Garba are played till midnight.
Ghee and oil lamps are lit in front of Mataji`s Sthanak, which is put in the Chowk. At initial stages dancing begins with
slow tempo and reaches at a fast tempo. A Dholi or drummer who sit in the centre keeps the rhythm.
Some times, women carry on their heads `Mandavali`, made up of bamboo chips covered with a red silk piece of cloth. They
dance with it for some time and later put it in the centre. Mandavali symbolizes the goddess.
Generally, women wear sari in the Gujarati style. But in different parts of Gujarat ,every community wears different style
of clothes. In Saurashtra region, women wear artistically embroidered petticoats (Ghaghara), a backless choli (Kapdu) and
a head cover (odhani) with lots of silver and head. Males wear Kediyum (shirt) Vajani (trouser) and Rumal a printed head piece
with on the waist, neck and hands. The musical instruments used for Garba are mainly the drum or dhol and Nal. Even, in some
parts now the Harmoniums are also used. Garba songs are devotional mostly in praise of Mother Goddess Jagdamba describing
her form, powers, and invoking her blessings. But in some songs description about seasons and social themes of domestic life
is also found.
Folk poets compose Garba songs and are lyrical poems sung in praise of Lord Krishna. Singing together is an invariable
accompaniment of Garba Nrtiya. Other forms of Garba are Deevo, Ghado and Garbi.
The most popular Dandia-Ras is also known as the `stick` dance. An another form of dance that is also a feature of most
welcomed festival, Navratri.
The word Ras in `Dandia-Ras` signifies Ras dance, which is, considered a form of Ras Leela. Ras Leela, which was an inseparable
part of Lord Krishna`s childhood action he used to perform at Gokul and Vrindavan. The Ras is simple and is generally performed
by a group of youthful people who move in typical style in measured steps around a circle, accompanied by a singing chorus
and a host of musical instruments like the dhol, cymbals, zanz, shehnai (flute).
It is one of India`s most popular folk dances & is full of energy and excitement. It is considered that this dance
form is from the Limbdi region of Gujarat (a state in Western India), over a period of time, the Dandiya Ras has imbibed an
all parts of India. Like most folk dances of India, the Ras too is one of collective impulse and enthusiasm. It`s always performed
in a group. In the ancient times, men essentially performed this folk dance. And it said that Dandia -Ras counterpart to the
Garba, exclusively performed by women. Today it is equally enjoyed and danced by both men and women.
In its modern form, men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished colourful sticks or dandias. As they whirl
to the rhythm of the dance, men and women strike the dandiyas together, adding to the joyful atmosphere. Though it is played
in almost all parts of State, the best Ras dancers are the Kathiawari Ras dancers, from the Saurashtra region. The sprightly
circular movements to the scintillating beats of the dhol are mesmerizing and transport one to a totally different world of
rhythm and joy. The performers add and subtract, as per the need of audiences while performing a Vesha.
The main difference between the `Garba` and `Dandiya` dance performances is that Garba is performed before `Aarti` of
Godess while Dandia is performed after it. Exclusively women perform Garba, men and women join in for Dandiya. Also known
as `stick dance` as performers use a pair of colorfully decorated sticks as props, the circular movements of Dandiya Ras are
slightly more complex than that of Garba.
A typical folk drama of Gujarat called Bhavai is performed in village and temple grounds by professional communities from
north Gujarat, the Taragalas, Bhojakas, etc. The word Bhavai is derived from the Sanskrit word "Bhava" meaning expression
of emotion or feeling.
The Bhavai drama is a continuous performance lasting the whole night. In Bhavai many "veshas" are performed
in the open, without any stage equipment. These veshas are usually episodes from the social life of the community in the countryside,
focusing in satirical or farcical way with which certain sections are characterized- Banias, Bohras, wandering tribes, etc.
Continuous playing on the Bhungal, a very long wind brass instrument, before and during the performance calls the villagers
to the scene of the Bhavai. Women are not strictly allowed to take part in the Bhavai. Therefore, the male artists perform
female roles, which makes the entire drama more joyful.
It is believed that the originator of the Bhavai folk-drama was Asait (1361 A. D.), a Brahmin from the village onza in
the north of the State. Asait has written approximately 360 Bhavai-vesh (episodes of Bhavai), apart from a long historical
ballad "Hansauli". The main objective behind performing Bhavai is providing entertainment. Bhavai performances were
staged in open grounds before the audiences, who would come for entertainment after the day`s tiring labour in their farms
and shops etc.
The Bhavai performers were called "bhavaiya". Asait had three sons living in the three separate homes. And all
of them used to present their Bhavai shows "from their three homes" which gave rise to termed the performers as
"Targala". Folk dances and folk music were the major elements in the formation of Bhavai.
The topics on which Bhavais are prepared are taken from the life of common man. Drawing from the events in the lives of
the contemporary people the Bhavai episodes are constructed with a combination of satire with popular reformation. The folk
dramas became very popular in Gujarat. In present day Gujarat ,Bhavai is a living tradition.