Gujarati Folk Dance – Garba

  1. Main Piece: Garba (Amit Bhai)
  2. Informant’s Background
    1. What is it?
      • “Garba is basically a mass form of dance that is done in a circle around a statue of a god. There is a basic set of movements that almost everyone who goes to a Garba knows – and if they don’t know it, they learn it, it’s not too difficult. But there are an endless amount of combinations of these basic steps – every line that circles the statue Garbas have no size limits, sometimes a dozen people come out, sometimes a thousand – it just depends on the occasion, time and place. There are also two very different forms of garba. While both use the same basic set of moves, one is performed with sticks called Dandiyas in hand, and one is performed without. The video I have recorded is of me performing with Dandiyas.”
    2. Where did you learn it:
      • “Considering it’s a part of Gujarati culture, I managed to pick it up growing up between weddings and Garbas. But now I go with my friends and create new combinations of steps every time.”
    3. What does it mean to you?
      • “I know it’s a religious event, but that’s not the way it’s viewed by most people, at least people here in America. It’s kind of become a social event. Over a thousand people, all different ages and from different parts of India come to the “ACC Garba” that I go to. It’s such an incredible time, everyone looks forward to it: you get to catch up with friends, meet new people, and just dance and have a good time with thousands of other people. So for me, it really just means a whole lot of fun.”
  3. Context of the Performance: Garba is traditionally performed at the Hindu festival of Navratri that goes on for 9 days, celebrating the goddess Durga.
  4. My Thoughts: I believe that the festivities that encompass Navratri – large amounts of people, music, and dance – caused the event to expand beyond simple religious purpose. Religious cause and dedication did not need to be a requirement to participate in this event, so it began to spread to communities beyond just Gujarati’s – everyone is looking for a reason to party. I thought that this form of dance was also interesting when compared to other forms of dance from India such as Kathak and Bhartnatiyam. Both of these are referred to as “classical” forms of dance and it is seriously frowned upon when people perform these without “proper form.” Garba on the other hand is a form of dance that is all welcoming and people encourage one another to dance regardless of their knowledge of the form. This could stem from the reason that while Kathak was originally performed for Royalty and with the purpose of telling a story – there was a greater air of serenity and perfection that encompassed it, where as Garba was performed as a form of mass worship (which in hinduism, we find to be less strict – requiring simply the intention) and eventually transformed into a mass form of entertainment.Garba (Garba (Amit Bhai)Amit Bhai)