The Dance of Change

Navratri, literally meaning 9 nights are the 9 nights devoted by Hindus to venerate the female principle Goddess in her many forms. Each part of India conducts this festival in their own special way. In the state of Gujrat, it is accompanied by song and dance – Garba, Dandiya and Raas.

Dancers in Garba finery

Dancers in Garba finery

 

In the Garba dance, dancers dance in circles around a perforated pot with a lamp in it . The circles suggest the cyclic nature of  life and death, and the pot, now sanctified, represents the Goddess. Unlike the dancers, Her position doesn’t change. She alone therefore is true or real, all else is an illusion.

What I find most interesting in all this the Garbi – a variation of Garba performed only by men. While Garba is a social dance, Garbi is a dance of worship. Is it not peculiar, that by tradition, women barred from participating in worship being offered to the female principle deity? What is even more striking is that Garba itself means the womb, and they say women cannot participate because their menstrual cycles make them impure.

I must add, this is also slowing changing. Change is after all what the whirling dancers depict.

 

*edited to add photo

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