Navaratri, a nine nights festival to celebrate the potency of feminine energy is an annual occurrence in India in the month of September/October. Though the celebrations have its regional flavour as with anything else in this cauldron of myriad culture, nowhere the nights are danced away as much as in the western state of Gujarat, where the dancing is considered as a form of offering to the Goddesses. Primarily two styles of dance are done, Garba with bare hands and Dandiya with sticks.
I had my first exposure to this beautiful flowing music/dance in the 1980s when I lived in Bombay, as I used to venture out after dinner with my Gujarati friends to have a look at the festivities in neighboring residential complexes. The dancing begins in the late evenings and go well into the wee hours of the mornings with the gradual increase in the musical tempo.
A few years ago, had an opportunity to watch the goings at the very place the dance belongs – Gujarat. In Ahmedabad, decided to check out the larger happenings as opposed to smaller residential ones. When walked into clubs like Karnavati and Rajpat, the large open grounds were milling with revelers dressed up in mind-blowing colourful costumes and it was getting dizzy and hard to focus. Every new entrant brought in a new style, colour and attitude. The ethnic ornaments and chania-cholis were eye-catching. The Garba begins after a short ritual to the Goddess.
Vadodara, where I was told the dance was done much differently and visited last year, had the dancers go in larger circles. Had the chance to hear the Sajda sisters singing for Garba and they were quite mellifluous.
This is probably the largest and longest dance party in the world. One can shuttle between Garba venues to enjoy different space and music, as live music is a norm in these large places. Thousands of musicians are employed and the event generates income for weavers, potters (an earthen pot is used as part of the ritual) any many other businesses.
It is also a time to splurge, for family get-together and to simply have fun, for people of all age and gender.
There is enough to keep oneself busy at Ahmedbad and Vadodara during the day before hitting the party places in the evenings. In A’bad, the Calico textile museum, Adlaj vav step well, Gandhi Ashram, Utensil museum at Vishala and a short visit to Gandhinagar Navaratri ground are must-see and in Vadodara, the Baroda museum is worth the visit.
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