The much-loved country-wide popular festival will once again bring out the youth in large numbers wearing the latest Navaratri specials and doing a lot of foot-tapping exercises in circular fashion. Not to forget the ‘Dandiya’ sticks that are sold like hot cakes for the ‘Disco Dandiya’.
Shopping Malls, traditional costume joints, readymade showrooms and retail shops, especially those selling ethnic sarees and dresses are already geared up to welcome this eager and enthusiastic shopping crowd that would love to splurge on this on-the-head nine-day annual affair of fun and frolic.
The college crowd is already ready with their plans in canteens having given the already boring lectures a definite miss. Garba venues where peer groups would congregate, dress combinations to be worn, partner choices, getting the steps right, all being discussed over chai and samosas, not to mention re-winding the past and strategies to be followed, to get a bigger blast this time.
Prepared with a new repertoire of garba hits, new dance steps learnt and practiced to perfection, to impress onlookers and admirers and the mood to leave no second of the nine days wasted, they are all set to swirl and twirl to the Navratri beat.
Gated communities, residential colonies and townships have already included the ‘necessary Navaratri expense’ in their annual budget and got ready with their preparations.
Orchestras are busy choosing their numbers and co-ordinating with venues eager to get them in. Event co-ordinators are dreaming of big draws and trying to attract youthful crowds to their venue. Tickets / Gate Passes are sold out and fresh ones printed and dished out to those ‘desperate to have a good time’. And of course the law enforcement agencies are still wondering what is in store for them this time.
The garba fever is definitely in the already heated-up air.
A brief background of the tradition
Navratri or nine nights, is when Goddess Durga, and the various forms of the Hindu deity are specially worshipped. Folk Dance of Gujarat, the Garba is traditional dance performed around a lit clay lantern housed in a glass enclosure. Known as ‘Garbha Deep’ it represents the womb or life and honors the divine Goddess Durga or Ambe, signifying the feminine form, the giver of life. Dancing around in a circle around the photo of the Goddess kept with the lamp and a small earthen pot filled with water in the centre, the dance indicates that the cycle of birth and re-birth is continuous for humans till they become one with God or attain Moksha while God in the centre is the constant factor remaining unchanged.
The Traditional costumes of Garba and Dandiya Raas
In honor of the Goddess Durga or Ambe, Garba traditionally started in Gujarat with women performing this dance on the nine nights or Navaratri mostly in the rural areas, that later spread to the cities as well. Simultaneously the Dandiya Raas, the more vigorous and spirited dance was performed by men with two short sticks in their hands and going around in a circle, was also to honor the Goddess, the symbol of life and fertility.
The costumes worn by women were the Chaniya Choli with a dupatta, a three piece dress where the Choli was the embroidered colourful blouse, the Chaniya being the colorful flaring skirt and the dupatta the covering piece worn in a special way over the blouse. The Chaniya Choli were decorated with beads, shells, mirrors, stars, and embroidery work, mati, etc. The women themselves were adorned with jhumkas (large earrings), necklaces, bindi, bajubandh, chudas and kangans, payal, kamarbandh, and mojiris. A decorative feast for the eyes indeed!
The boys and men wore kafni Pyjamas with a short rounded kurta that ended above the knees. a pagadi or colorful turban, with Bandhini dupatta kada and mojiris. Typically rural outfit worn for the occasion and matching with the Chaniya Choli.
The modern format or Disco Dandiya
Gradually this has been replaced by the modern format, that has come from the transformation of the dance forms Garba and Raas Dandiya into a highly fuelled disco version combining the two forms that matches the beats of the filmy tunes of the garba songs, belted out by orchestras. Popular in the cities it has now percolated slowly down to nearby towns and semi-urban areas. Once restricted to Gujarat, the modern format has spread to all corners of the country and shores overseas especially promoted by a youth population looking for fun and frolic.
The traditional dresses are still roughly the same, worn for the novelty of a traditional costume in a modern setting, with funky changes of mirror work and modern day adjustments and additions, a regular feature year after year.
Learning new dance steps every year
Introducing new steps to the regular dance around in a circle that ushers in change and competitiveness, the annual affair also means a regular dance competition with a variety of features from complex dance steps, pride of performance to most colorful costumes and compatible pairs, that has created a whole new line of business for the enterprising willing to capitalize on the opportunity, while a multitude of eager learners willing to take all that they dish out as Gospel, either to win prizes in the competitions or to shine and impress within their peer groups, flatters them with their paid enrolments as students.
Simple Tips from a Guru – Rajesh Joshi
While the dance steps taught by Rajesh Joshi at Vadodara in Gujarat may have 3000 plus students graduating into passable to expert stages in dancing, he advises that it is more about the attitude and way of carrying oneself during the programmes that makes a world of difference to the aspirants ‘wanting to shine and be popular’ in the nine days of Navaratri and the ‘dancers’.
The occasion involves multitudes or throngs of people with some dancing, the majority watching the expert, good and wanting moves of the dancers who make the circle.
For those who want to shine here are a few of the fairly successful ideas that could work in one’s favour.
- A colorful or garish costume catches the eye from a distance. The costume should be splashed with red, green, orange or blue in the vibrant shades. It at least gets one noticed.
- Those who dare make a mark. Be near the stage and start dancing to the tune being played even if nobody else close by is making moves. This makes others eager to join in and soon people start following your move and then the steps.
- When dancing in the big circle, there are always eyes that follow the bright animated face that matches the moves. Soon a whole lot of gaze would be on the smiling face and shining eyes that people love to watch.
- For girls the big Mata Ka Tika or Big Round Red mark of the vermillion on the forehead would be an automatic ‘gaze catcher’.
- The dress while aimed at making one look good should also be carried well with moves appropriate to make people see elegance and elan.
- Fatigue is natural after a few rounds of the fast paced tunes, and one can do one of two things. Leave the circle for a few numbers or continue with a little extra effort. The effort gains admirers who could secretly be wanting to know the recipe for ‘non-stop dancing’ with that cheery smile still on. How do you do it? Simple! One would just have to slow the leg steps, in such a manner that makes others think that it is part of a deliberate routine.
These are but a few but important hints to practise to get popular.
Disco Dandiya has come to stay, and while the traditional Puja and other observances continue as usual, it is an addition that has also become a regular feature. Many could disagree but it is also seen by the younger generation as a way of pleasing the Goddess with the effort to do well in a traditional dance though with a much modified format, that could by the vim and vigour of the execution get her divine blessings.