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Dandiya- A Version of Garba?

Dandiya dance during Navratri

In my last blog I wrote about Garba dance. In this blog I’ll tell you more about Dandiya, a dance form hailing from the Gujarat state of India. Many people think that both Garba and Dandiya are the same, but actually they are very different dance forms. If we look at the history of these two dances, we see that both originated in Gujarat and are performed during the Hindu festival of Navratri. Dandiya’s alleged origins can be traced back to the times of Lord Krishna. One legend states that the dance form originated from Lord Krishna and Radha’s ‘raasleela’ and hence it is known as ‘dandiya raas’. Today Dandiya remains one of the most significant aspects of any Gujarati celebration. 


Lord Krishna dancing with Radha

Originally performed in the honour of the Hindu Goddess Durga, Dandiya dance represents a battle between demon Mahishasur and Goddess Durga in which Goddess Durga emerged victoriously. The colourful sticks used during Dandiya represent the sword of Goddess Durga which is why this dance is also known as the sword dance. It is believed that the sound of sticks striking against one another help ward off evil. According to Hindu traditions, performing ‘aarti’ (a ritual for worshiping the deity) for Goddess Durga during Navrati brings good fortune, reduces enemies and their power and makes one an ultimate winner. 


Goddess Durga's victory over Mahishasur

Dandiya dance includes an enormous number of individuals dancing at a time. As indicated by the dance setting, two circles are created by dancers during the performance. One circle revolves clockwise while the other moves anticlockwise. The circular movements of Dandiya raas are slightly more complex than that of Garba dance. The Dandiya sticks when struck together in a rhythm produce foot-tap-sounding musical beats and also help in marking time.


Dandiya Dance

The major difference between Garba and Dandiya dance is that Garba is performed before ‘aarti’ exclusively by women while Dandiya is performed after ‘aarti’, usually late in the evenings for enjoyment by both men and women. Moreover, Garba songs have devotional appeal and are centred around Goddess Durga (also known as Maa Ambe) while Dandiya songs are centred around Lord Krishna and his dance with Radha and other ‘gopis’ (villagers).  


Dandiya dance in the Bolywood movie Lagaan

The sight of hundreds of people swaying to the beats of folk music during Dandiya is a treat for the eyes of the spectators. During the dance performance, women wear bright, colourful three-piece dress comprising of ‘chaniya choli’ (top and long skirt) and ‘odhni’ (scarf) with beautiful embroidery and mirror work. Men wear traditional ‘kurtas’ (long shirt) and pyjamas. Some men also wear traditional Gujarati dress called ‘kedyu’ and ‘dhoti’. 


Traditional costume worn during Dandiya dance

Dandiya is also quite popular among Indians residing abroad who perform the dance with the same fervour as the dancers in India. Such celebration during Navratri has multiple roles to play. It brings communities closer, enhances the joy of festivals and keeps traditions thriving. Navratri is the time when we seek inspiration from Goddess Durga. The dance is a manifestation of the gratitude we feel in being alive and blessed with so much abundance. Navratri would indeed be incomplete without Dandiya.


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