As the country gets gripped in the festivities of the Sharadiya Navratri, with temples being beautifully decorated and devotees getting ready to appease and praise Ma Durga by attending Jagrans and Kirtans, Gujarat too gets ready to celebrate Sharad Navratri with people flooding the markets to buy Chaniyaa-Cholis, matching jewelry, dandiyas to welcome Maa Durga as they gear to be a part of the longest Dance festival of the world, â€œNavratri- The Garba festivalâ€.
Garba gets its name from the Sanskrit word GARBHA and is traditionally performed in concentric circles around a centrally lit lamp or statue of Goddess Shakti as an object of veneration. The Garbha Deep has a symbolic interpretation. This vessel is considered to be the symbol of the body within which divinity resides and the Garba dance symbolizes that all human beings have the divine energy of Devi within them.
The cyclic rotation of dance in concentric circles symbolises the cycle of life in which everything is impermanent except the Divine. It denotes the cycle of life moving around permanence in unending, infinite movements representing that God is the only thing that remains constant in this changing universe. Garba in itself is like a meditative experience, leading to a trancelike state.
Navratri- The Garba Festival
The primary forms of this dance are Garba, both Do-taali and Teen-Taali, and Dandiya Raas. Based on these many new variants are choreographed every year and people usually close friends and family learn these steps in groups and perform together.
Both women and men dress up in traditional attires, jewellery, waist belts, etc. The Garba fever swipes across the length and breadth of the state, irrespective of age. People dance to the songs and bhajans of Mother Goddess and Lord Krishna in well-defined steps in unison which starts with slow beats and music, which gradually catches up to speed.
The lyrics of Garba range from devotional and philosophical to romantic and playful, representing a wide variety of emotions and ideas which are catchy as well as energetic. Modern-day Garba is also influenced by Hindi Film music with people dancing happily to the beats of popular filmi and non-filmi songs wearing all sorts of designer outfits in lavishly decorated pandals which can support gatherings of thousands of people but in the olden days, it didnâ€™t use to be so.
Way back, Garba dance used to be more of a spiritual affair where people living in a society or a colony used to gather at night to pay their reverence to Mother Divine, as it is considered auspicious to wake up at night during Navratri. People after finishing their dinner and household chores would gather in the common plots and pay their reverence to the Goddess by performing Aarti and then dancing to Bhajans of Devi and Lord Krishna. Sheri Garba as it is popularly known today used to be performed in each and every locality with people dressed up in simple lehenga-choli or sarees with their heads covered as a mark of respect to the Goddess.
The Garba usually started(it still does) with small children performing to the tunes of songs like Mumbai thi gaadi aavi re, etc, and then as it advances, the elders take over the show. I remember, as a child playing Garba every night during Sharadiya Navratri till we hours of the morning wearing colourful dresses with children of my age. Small prizes used to be distributed at the end like some utensils, games, or stationary items to all the kids after the event got over every night and we used to be so happy getting those small gifts as a prasad of the goddess.
These customs are still prevalent today, kits just that those small pretty gifts have been replaced by more expensive ones. Garba has gained much popularity over the years and now it is also performed not only outside Gujarat but outside the country too especially in U.K. and U.S.A. due to the presence of a large Gujarati community on the global platform.
Though due to restrictions on time limits on loud music, D.J., etc. the play time has now reduced froom evening till midnight the garba fever hasnâ€™t subsided. People throng the Garba pandals with the same fervour and passion as they used to earlier, making it the longest and one of the most enjoyable and divine experiences that can be experienced in this world.
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