Navratri

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Navratri (Hindi: नवरात्री Gujarati: નવરાત્રી) is a festival dedicated to the worship of the Hindu deity Durga. The word Navaratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit, nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshiped. The tenth day is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or “Dussehra” (also spelled Dasara). Navratri is an important major festival and is celebrated with great zeal all over India. Diwali the festival of lights is celebrated twenty days after Dasara.

This festival corresponds to a nine-day Taoist celebration beginning on the eve of 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar, which is observed primarily by the ethnic Chinese of Min Nan linguistic group in Southeast Asian countries like Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia,Thailand and also the Riau Islands called the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

Dandiya Raas

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Raas or Dandiya Raas is the traditional folk dance form of Vrindavan, India, where it is performed depicting scenes of Holi, and lila ofKrishna and Radha. Along with Garba, it is the featured dance of Navratri evenings in Western India. During Navratri festival, in most of the cities of Gujarat and in Mumbai people gather and perform Garba dance.

The word “Raas” comes from the Sanskrit word “Rasa”. The origins of Raas can be traced to ancient times. Lord Krishna performed Rasa lila” (Lila means Lord Krishna’s playful dance. The word “Laika” also refers to things that God does that we fully understand).

There are several forms of Raas, but “Dandiya Raas”, performed during Navaratri in Gujarat is the most popular form. Other forms of Raas include Dang Lila from Rajasthan where only one large stick is used, and “Rasa lila” from North India. Raas Lila and Dandiya Raas are similar. Some even consider “Garba” as a form of Raas, namely “Raas Garba”.

In Dandiya Raas men and women dance in two circles, with sticks in their hands. In the old times Raas did not involve much singing, just the beat of Dhol was enough. “Dandiya” or sticks, are about 18″ long. Each dancer holds two, although some times when they are short on Dandiya they will use just one in right hand. Generally, in a four beat rhythm, opposite sides hit the sticks at the same time, creating a nice sound. One circle goes clockwise and another counter clockwise. In the west, people don’t form full circles, but instead often form rows.

 

Costumes and music

The women wear traditional dresses such as colorful embroidered choli, ghagra and bandhani dupattas, which is the traditional attire, dazzling with mirror work and heavy jewellery. The men wear special turbans and kedias, but can range from area to area. The dancers whirl and move their feet and arms in a choreographed manner to the tune of the music with a lot of drum beats. The dhol is used as well as complementary percussion instruments such as the dholak, tabla, et cectra. the true dance gets extremely complicated and energetic. Both of these dances are associated with the time of harvest.

 

Difference between Dandiya and Garba

The main difference between Garba and Raas is that Raas is played with Dandiyas (pair of colorfully decorated sticks), while Garba consists of various hand and feet movements. Most of the Dandiya steps require even number of people while in Garba there is no such requirement on number of people.
For Dandiya, sometimes instead of sticks, people also use “Swords”. The circular movements of Dandiya Raas are much more complex than that of Garba. As people play with sticks, it is important to be careful while playing Dandiya.

Garba

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Garba (ગરબા in Gujarati) is a form of dance that originated in the state of Gujarat in India. The name is derived from the Sanskritterm Garbha (“womb”) and Deep (“a small earthenware lamp”). Many traditional garbas are performed around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of the 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.

Traditionally, the dance is performed around a clay lantern with a light inside, called a Garbha Deep. This lantern represents life; 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. Garba is now being appreciated worldwide.

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 earrings), necklaces, bindi, bajubandh, chudas and kangans, kamarbandh, payal, and mojiris. Boys and men wear kafni pyjamas with a Ghagra – 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 and 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!”