Navratri is a festival that can make even a person with two left feet want to dance! This festival is full of music, song, movement, lights, color, and reverence. The word Navratri literally means nine nights in Sanskrit, where Nava means nine and Ratri means nights.
The first three days of this festival are dedicated to the Goddess Durga, a warrior goddess dressed in red and mounted on a lion. The next three days are dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, who is dressed in gold and mounted on an owl.
The last three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, who is dressed in milky white and mounted on a pure white swan.
Dandiya raas and garba are the highlights of this festival. Sweet meals are prepared for the celebrations, and children and adults dress up in new bright-colored clothes for the night performance.
The most popular women's folk dance of Gujarat is the Garba. During the Navratri festival, a pot is placed ceremoniously and attractive designs are made on it. After that, a light is placed inside it. Village girls go from door to door and dance around their respective houses with the pots on their heads.
The first line of the song is sung by the leader and is repeated in chorus by the others. The striking of sticks or the clapping of hands produces the beat. Every step of this dance captivates the eyes; whether it is the arms coming together in sweeping gestures, left and right, up and down, or the graceful bending sideways.
The garba is a ceremony in which everyone can take part. The songs of Garba are often those that have been handed down through generations.
The Dandiya Raas that is performed by men is the most impressive artistry of the dancers. In this dance, the participants use sticks to which tiny bells have been attached. When the sticks strike each other, a clear jingling sound is given off.
It has a complicated rhythm, and despite the dancers beginning at a slow tempo, it soon develops in such a manner that each person not only performs solo but also performs with the partners on either side and the opposite side. The circle that had been made in the beginning keeps breaking up into 2 concentric circles or 3 or 4 circles within the larger one.
The dancers have freedom in the movements and beat the sticks sitting, standing, or in a lying position too. Sometimes they even use their feet to hold the sticks and are able to strike it that way. Of ancient origin and ritual significance, the Dandiya Raas is popular even today.