The Interviewer will be referred to as ‘I’, and the informant as ‘B’. Translations for Hindi words will be italicised and in parentheses. The Informant is a 34-year-old Gujarati woman, born and raised in Gujarat.
B: Garba is the folk dance of Gujarat, and a religious—also very social and happy—event that originates in Gujarat, but also among Gujaratis all over the world. It comes from a Sanskrit word, I believe, meaning womb, and here we dance around a clay lamp in a circle, the lamp is also called the ‘womb lamp’. It’s performed by women, around the lamp with a light inside of it, but as time has passed I think men also do perform it sometimes for fun. The circle kind of represents the Hindu view of time, it’s circular, like the circle of life. There are nine nights of dancing, the festival Navratri, as a form of worship to the Goddess Durga, our devi (goddess). Men and women dance late into the night from the evening onwards in honour of her, but women generally perform Garba specifically, as a celebration. Like many other Hindi religious practices and rituals, and this is part of one… this is done on our feet, it’s barefoot, because going barefoot is like respect for the earth on which we walk, you know? The foot is the body part that touches the earth, the mother, and dancing barefoot is like our way of connecting with her, as well as devi—Goddess Durga. It’s a dance that worships, celebrates the feminine form of divinity.
Hindus are polytheists, and have many gods and goddesses, some favoured by people with specific jobs, others by people from specific regions or families, and all of these different groups of people have specific festivals and traditional ways of honouring these gods. One such example is the affiliation of the Gujarati festival of Navratri, and one of its dances, the Garba, with the goddess Durga. Durga is, as my informant states, a representation of the feminine divine, one of the most prominent Hindu goddesses. The connection with the earth that is also emphasised by my informant is important, since it furthers the image of the feminine mother, since, a) the earth is the mother, b) the goddess Durga is the mother, and c) the women dancing themselves are also, often, mothers. Simultaneously, the lamp being called the “womb lamp” and the word Garba coming from a word meaning “womb” adds to this, essentially creating an all-round aura of fertility and conventional* divine femininity around this celebration, along with its general enjoyment and euphoria with all the dancing and collective experience.
*I say conventional here in reference to the idea that fertility and motherhood is associated here with femininity and vice versa, when it is not always so in reality, those need not coincide, this is simply a derivative from what the informant is stating.