Indian Festival Navratri—The 9 Nights of Festivities, Music and Dance Extravaganza
What Is Navratri Festival?
Navratri ( 'Nav' means 'Nine' and "Ratri' means 'nights'), is a religious festival celebrated throughout the length and breath of India.
The festival lasts for ten days and the whole atmosphere is charged with positive thoughts, devotion, meditation, worship, folk music and folk dance, delicious food, enthusiasm and celebrations.
India is a country with lot of diversity. Therefore, the method of celebration varies from one state to another, from one region to another. But the soul and the spirit remains the same.
Although, there are five Navratri festivals in a year; usually happening when the seasons change, but it is the Sharad Navratri which is the most important of all. This Navratri is also referred to as the 'Maha Navratra.' 'Maha' means 'great' and 'Nav' means 'nine' and 'Ratri' means 'nights.'
This usually falls in the month of September-October, and coincides with the beginning of the winter season.
What is the Dandiya Raas or Garba
An elaborate explanation of the Indian festival of Navratri can not be done in a single article. There are different ways of celebrating this colourful and wonderful festival in Northern India, Western India, Eastern India or Southern India.
But one thing is common—It is celebrated to worship, The Goddess Durga, the symbol of power, strength( mental and emotional) and prosperity.
Here, I am focusing on one aspect of the celebration--the 'Dandiya' or 'Garba' folk music and dance festival, which has it’s roots in Gujarat state of India.
Although it is a folk dance, which originates from Gujarat, it is popular all over India, and even some parts of the world.
It is also called the 'stick dance.'
The 'Garba' or 'Dandiya' dancers dance by matching their steps, by moving around in a circle.
They make graceful dance movements, by clapping their own hand, or with their partners, in a musical rhythm.
They also do the same, with decorated and colorful sticks.
In the center of the circle, an earthen lamp is lighted and placed. This symbolizes the eternal light of the Goddess Shakti or power/ positive energy.
Devotional folk songs are constantly sung by musicians, and artists from a well decorated stage, and the dancers match steps, according to the rhythm of the songs.
The folk songs are in praise of the Goddess. Sometimes, it is a slow song, and at other times, it is full of beats, with the drums, and other classical or modern musical instruments.
The visual effect is just magical, for the participants, as well as the onlookers.
Colorful And Beautiful Costumes Of Garba And Dandiya
One of the most important and significant part of Dandiya raas, and Garba dance form is its colourful and traditional costumes, and the traditional jewelry.
The costumes are in bright colours, of red, yellow, orange, pink, blue, green etc., whether it is meant for male or female.
They are made with mirror work dress materials, embroidered cloth materials, tie and dye, or batik print dress materials, applique art, and numerous other traditional art on clothes.
Head covers, or Chunri for girls, or Pagdi, or turbans for men is also worn in very bright colours.
The women costumes are generally called Ghagra, choli and chunri and the costume for men is pagdi, kedias, or achkan.
The 'Dandiya' sticks are used as prop in this skilled dance form, and is available in matching colours of the costume.
Dandiya raas is a social dance activity, and many people dance together in circles. It needs a lot of coordination, and training.
Usually, there are two large circles, one moving in clockwise direction, while the other in anti clockwise direction.
The large group of dancers, moving with the rhythm of music, and songs looks elegant, and is a visual delight.
The whole sequence of music, and dance goes all through the night, up till early morning.
Usually it starts from ten o'clock in the night, after an 'Arti' that is worshiping of the Goddess, and then follows the dance and music extravaganza.
The Mesmerizing Effect!
The music and dance festival of Navratri is a lively, colorful, and a fast paced folk dance form. People make preparations in advance, for the nine nights festival.
The dancers usually arrange for nine set of costumes, with matching jewelry etc. for this great celebration.
No one wants to miss out, even a single detail, when costume, or make up is concerned. They want to look their best. And they look beautiful, and traditional, just out of this World.
Anyone, who is present at the venue is mesmerized, with the enthusiastic atmosphere, and is sure to join in the celebrations.
How important are festivals in our lives?
Festivals are an important part of our lives, and festivals are celebrated all over the world, in their own different ways.
- Besides the religious aspect, there is a social aspect attached to the celebration of festivals.
- You get the opportunity to meet the family and friends and enjoy together.
- You laugh, eat, sing and dance and all that contributes, in relieving you from stress and tensions, if any.
- You don't even realize, how much positive energy flows, when people are sharing happy, and enjoyable times together.
- It is the perfect way to rejuvenate, and recharge your energy levels, which becomes somewhat monotonous, with the usual day today routine life.
Let us be a part of the magic and the extravaganza!
Are you aware of the Dandiya music and dance festival?
Dandiya Dance, source: You tube
Garba song and dance, source: You tube
© 2014 Chitrangada Sharan