Garba (dance)

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Women and men performing Garba as part of Navaratri celebrations in Vadodara

Garba (ગરબા in Gujarati) is an Indian form of dance that originated in the Gujarat region. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term Garbha ("womb") and Deep ("a small earthenware lamp"). Many traditional garbas are performed around a central lit lamp or picture/statues of different avatars of Goddess Shakti. The circular and spiral figures of Garba have similarities to other spiritual dances, such as those of Sufi culture. Traditionally it is performed during the nine-day Hindu festival Navarātrī (Gujarātī નવરાત્રી Nava = 9, rātrī = nights). Either the lamp (the Garba Deep) or an image of the Goddess Durga (also called Amba) is placed in the middle of concentric rings as an object of veneration. During Navratri, Vadodara, the cultural capital of Gujarat is the best place to perform or witness Garba.[1]



Garba dance in Bhuj

Modern garba is also heavily influenced by Ḍānḍīyā Raas (Gujarātī: ડાંડીયા), a dance traditionally performed by men. The merger of these two dances has formed the high-energy dance that is seen today.

Both men and women usually wear colorful costumes while performing garba and dandiya. The girls and the women wear Chaniya choli, a three-piece dress with a choli, which is an embroidered and colorful blouse, teamed with chaniya, which is the flared, skirt-like bottom, and dupatta, which is usually worn in the traditional Gujarati manner. Chaniya Cholis are decorated with beads, shells, mirrors, stars, and embroidery work, mati, etc. Traditionally, women adorn themselves with jhumkas (large traditional earrings), necklaces, bindi, bajubandh, chudas and kangans, kamarbandh, payal, and mojiris. Boys and men wear kafni pyjamas with a kediyu - a short round kurta - above the knees and pagadi on the head with bandhini dupatta, kada, and mojiris.

There is a huge interest in Garba among the youth of India and in particular, the Gujarati diaspora. Garba and Dandiya Raas are also popular in the United States where more than 20 universities have Raas Garba competitions on a huge scale every year with professional choreography. Garba is also very popular in the United Kingdom where there are a number of Gujarati communities who hold their own garba nights. It is widely popular among the Gujarati community even in Canada, where the largest navratri festival in North America is held annually in Toronto. They say "Ae Hallo" for fun, which means "Come on! Lets start!"


Garba dance

Garba is a Gujarati folk dance celebrated in navratri, a celebration lasting nine nights. People celebrate this festival in crowds, e.g. clubs, societies, or schools. Garba songs are usually on the topics of Lord Krishna or the nine goddesses. Sanedo is the most wanted song in the crowd. Kids dance on the songs like mumbai thi gadi aavi re..... To begin with, they start with 3 taali and then at the last, all the fast songs are played. There are many forms of garba like- dandiya Raas, garbi, Heench, 3 taali and Dodhiyu. Garba varies from place to place in Gujarat. The traditional costumes the garba dancers wear is pink, yellow orange and such bright coloured Chanya choli or ghagra choli; odhni with bandhani (tie and die), Abla (Big mirrors) or with thick Gujarati borders; They also wear heavy ornaments like- 2-3 necklaces, sparkling bangles or kadas, janjhars or payals, kandoro or waist belts, long oxidised earrings and bajubandh.


The word Garba comes from the Sanskrit word for gestation or pregnancy. Traditionally, the dance is performed around a clay lantern with a light inside, called a Garbha Deep. This lantern represents life, and the fetus in the womb in particular. The dancers thus honor Durga, the feminine form of divinity.

Garba is performed in a circle as a symbol of the Hindu view of time. The rings of dancers revolve in cycles, as time in Hinduism is cyclical. As the cycle of time revolves, from birth, to life, to death and again to rebirth, the only thing that is constant is the Goddess, that one unmoving symbol in the midst of all of this unending and infinite movement. The dance symbolizes that God, represented in feminine form in this case, is the only thing that remains unchanging in a constantly changing universe (jagat).

The Garbha Deep has another symbolic interpretation. The vessel itself is a symbol of the body, within whom Divinity (in the form of the Goddess) resides. Garba is danced around this symbol to honor the fact that all humans have the Divine energy of Devi within them.

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