The first thing that comes to mind when someone says Gujarat is colour, vibrancy, culture, and of course, folk dances. Gujaratis love to celebrate every auspicious day with tremendous pomp, show and celebration, since it is one of the most ancient lands of festivals. Folk Dances of Gujarat are an important element of the culture there. The traditional dances and dramas are vivid, colourful, and dynamic, and they genuinely depict the culture. Gujarati dance forms are remarkable in that most of them are centuries old but have been effectively conserved over time. The majority of art traditions can be traced back to antiquity. People of the state are known to have a natural ability to sing and dance. The numerous types of folk dance forms are certainly a visual feast and mirror to the culture of Gujarat.
Garba is a popular dance form from Gujarat, whose name comes from the Sanskrit terms Garbha (womb) and Deepa (dance). It is traditionally danced around a central lamp or Goddess Shakti. Other spiritual dances, such as those of Sufi culture, contain comparable circular and spiral moves. This dance is done by Gujarati women and is associated with Shakti-Puja. It is thought to have originated in the worship of the goddess Jagdamba. Garba dance is performed for nine nights during the Navratri festival. This folk dance is given in a circle by the ladies at events such as Sharad Purnima, Vasant Panchami, and Holi.
During the performance, damru, tabla, nagara, Murli, Turi, and shehnai are commonly used as accompaniments, and the clothing includes a kedia, churidar and Ghagra choli along with elaborate jewelry sets with nose rings, bangles, anklets and earrings. The movements symbolize the life cycle from birth to death, with Goddess Shakti as the only constant. The dance depicts God as the only constant in an ever-changing universe, taking on a feminine form in Garba. Aside from that, there is a variation of Garba known as Garbi that is usually performed by men during religious festivals like Janmashtami.
The dance form of Dandiya, also known as the stick dance, is one of Gujarat’s most popular folk dances. This dance form depicts a mock battle between the Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, the demon king. Dancers move their feet and arms in a complex, choreographed fashion during dandiya, with the dhol serving as a supplementary percussion instrument. The dance sticks (dandiyas) are said to resemble Durga’s swords.
This is another unique type of dance that is also a part of Navaratri, one of India’s most popular festivals. Garba and Dandiya dance performances are distinguished by the fact that Garba takes place before Aarti and Dandiya Ras takes place after it. Garba is only done by women, however, Dandiya is open to both men and women. It is primarily performed by ladies in a graceful and rhythmic style, although when performed in couples, men also participate. They usually dress in traditional Gujarati garba, such as ghagras, cholis, and bandhani dupattas, and accessorise with silver jewellery.
Bhavai, Gujarati Folk Theatre
Bhavai is a popular Gujarati folk theatre form with a 700-year history. The word Bhavai is derived from a mixture of two words: bhav, which means emotion, and vahini, which means carrier, hence it is designated as an art form that is a carrier of emotion. With simple narrative and exaggerated performances, it evolved into an open-air style with the main aim of mass awareness and entertainment. Several skits are presented within a single performance night, and these tiny skits are known as vesha. The highlights of any Bhavai vesha are music, dance, and vernacular humour. Bhavai uses a variety of instruments, including the bhungal, tabla, kansijoda, jhaanjh, sarangi, and harmonium.
In several regions of Gujarat, the Bhavaiyya community, also known as Vyas or Nayak, has a historical claim to Bhavai art and heritage. While today’s actors come from all walks of life to train and perform Bhavai, the Bhavaiyya community’s male members were the sole performers for the majority of the play’s existence.
Tippani is a Gujarati dance form that originated in the Chorwad region of Saurashtra. Tippani dance evolved from an ancient technique of pounding lime into a house’s foundation with a tippani, a long pole with a square wooden or iron block at one end. Tippani dance was created by women to enjoy the tedious and exhausting tasks. The women from two lines, facing each other, sing and dance while beating the tippani in time. Tippani dances are done at festivals and weddings.
The costumes and gear used in this folk dance are also traditional and representative. A short coat known as “Kedia” with tight sleeves and exaggerated shoulders and borders, tight pants such as Churidars, and vibrantly overstated caps or embellished turbans and a decorative waistband are common folk costumes for the dance. The major musical instruments utilised to control the cadence and tempo of the arrangements are the dhol, Marinara, and Shehnai. Throughout this rhythmic melodic technique, they illuminate their toil.
The Padhar dance, performed by members of the Padhar community, is another popular traditional dance in Gujarat. Padhar people are primarily fishermen who reside along the banks of the Bhal region’s Nal Sarovar. They are Hindu devotees who worship Goddess Durga in various forms. The dancer imitates situations that occur in the lives of seamen while performing this dance. The performer dances while holding little sticks in their hands and enacts boat rowing while singing songs about water.
The Padhar people are a nomadic agricultural community. They wander around, living by the water and leading the lifestyles of seamen. Their music and dancing are a reflection of their persistent desire to travel. The rise and fall of sea waves, as well as the life of seamen, are frequently employed as subjects in these dance performances. Their lively merriment and ardent Padhar folk dance movement exemplifies the region’s rich cultural heritage. Through music and dance, the seafarers’ daily tasks and lifestyle, as well as their feelings and sentiments, are conveyed.
Hudo is one of Gujarat’s most well-known folk dances. It is the shepherd community of Gujarat’s Bharwad Tribe’s folk dance genre. Sheep battles were the inspiration for the dance. This dance form imitates the actions of two sheep banging their heads against one other. The dancers clap their hands together in a rhythmic and strong manner. Hudo Dance is performed by both men and women. It is also customary for them to choose their life partners at the end of the dance. Both men and women from the village take part in this dance. The men wear colourful dhotis with elegant borders, Koti, a native cap with a multicoloured frill, and silver ornaments like Kadu, Tavij, Kadi, and bright mala. Women, on the other hand, wear dark Jimy, Kapdu, and Odhani, as well as silver jewellery such as a long necklace, earrings, Chudla, Kadu, and Damani.
As an accompaniment, traditional musical instruments such as the Dhol, Dholak, Harmonium, Flute, Kansi, Joda, and Manjira are employed.
Dance is the most effective means of expressing emotions and sentiments that are difficult to explain in words. The dances also depict the way of life of people in a particular place. As a result, all of the above dance genres represent Gujarat’s rich culture and tradition.