This is like a dance slash game -um- it’s from like Indian Hindu culture actually like it used to be Hindu, but it’s kind of becoming more of like an Indian thing now -um- and basically you have these sticks. Each person has like two sticks; They’re called Raas (pronounced “Ross”) R-A-A-S -um- and like you, you just go around like hitting your sticks with other people’s sticks and it’s like you, you just like dance around all night like hitting sticks with other sticks and like you’ll make like patterns with your friends and like different complex like dances.
So like if I have these two sticks and you have yours we could be like 1, 2, 3, turn (gesturing to alternating sides with each count and then spinning around with sticks touching your partners) and then there’s like two lines and they go like opposite ways and like so like I’ll go like… so we both move to our, our left so like after we, I hit your stick three times and turn or whatever then I’ll go to like the person next to you and we’ll do the same thing and we’ll keep going. It’s kinda like a circuit kind of.
Yeah and it’s like it’s around the time so that this whole um dance party thing is called garba -um-… G-A-R-B-A. Um- so -um- yeah and it’s usually in like October November it’s like uhh fall harvest type of thing. Yeah.
The Informant, one of my classmates, shared the dance of Raas after discussion section. The dance is commonly performed during the Navratri festival alongside a similar and simpler folk dance called Garba. The festival is celebrated to pay respect to the Mother Goddess of the Hindu religion, Shakti. The performance of the dance celebrates the nine incarnations of the goddess.
The Informant told me that she doesn’t remember a time where she didn’t take part in the festivities of Navratri, including the folk dances of Raas and Garba. They’re a part of her life. She doesn’t know who taught them to her or when she first danced. One of the Informant’s favorite parts of the dance is the color. She said it reminds her of Holi, the famous Indian “festival of colors” in which people smear each other with color. By the end, everyone is a vibrant hue. In Navratri, the people begin the festival wearing colorful and vibrant Garba garbs. The dance is rather simple. There are no official steps, but performers click sticks to keep rhythm.
Raas was a traditionally male dominated dance, but has become more inclusive over the years. The two things prominent in Raas are vigor and force, however, a one of passion instead of violence. Raas and Garba are both fast-paced energy-filled dances comprised of two circles, one rotating clockwise and the other counterclockwise.
I loved this account of some of the folk dances cherished in India, but I loved the backstory even more. The fact that these dances have been a part of her life so long that she can’t remember a time that they weren’t present is, in my belief, a true marker of a folk dance that is massively culturally important. This act is a merging of three areas of folklore. The dance itself, the festival at which it’s performed, and the mythology it celebrates.
For more information on Raas, Garba, and the Navratri festival, see here.