Thursday, May 8, 2008

Dance, music and a little joy..

There is something about Garbha that just mesmerizes...I’m not sure if it is the dance beats or the crowds or just the sheer enthusiasm of the festival, but it sure is contagious. Let me not be too presumptuous and share the concept with you. Navratre is a 9 day Hindu festival celebrated in India. This festival comes twice a year and it is the one in Oct- Nov which is accompanied by the famous Garbha festivities. During the 9 days of Navratra, people dance the Garbha Dance. It symbolizes the Dance of Creation and the Creation of the Universe. The word 'Garhba' means the ‘womb’ and symbolizes the 'Dance of Creation'.

Why I am writing about this festival has nothing to do with religion or religious motivation. On the contrary, it is the joy of the festival that draws crowds every year. Based in Ahmedabad for 5 years, I too became a fan. My observations are particular to Ahmedabad and can probably be generalized to all of Gujarat but not to the rest of India. Garbha is so ingrained in the Gujarati culture that professors at colleges allow children to miss classes because they danced all night. The excitement of the festival starts a month or 2 in advance. Everyone – girls, women, men, children…I mean everyone, starts deciding what they are going to wear. The event being across 9 days, most people go dancing on 3-4 days of these and the last 2 are the most popular. People take out their shining outfits from last year and often give in to the temptation of going to the local market (called ‘Law Market’ for some strange reason) and buying the latest designs. The otherwise conservative Gujarati women go all out and buy backless/ halter neck cholis (blouses) teamed with beautiful flowing skirts in bright colors adorned with mirrors. Once the wardrobe is all set, new comers like me suddenly realize that we don’t know the steps at all…so we will end up dressing like dolls and standing in the corner. Then starts the flurry of dance classes with everyone trying to learn a twirl or 2. By the time the day finally arrives, everyone is all set to party!

Finally the day arrives and there is a list of places to choose from. Over the years, a few clubs have gained popularity and are THE places to be seen at. SOI, Karnavati Club and Rajpath Club top the list and tickets can be purchased at the premises. Then there are the ‘cool’ versions strictly by invitation only at ‘NID’ and ‘CEPT’. The norm is to have a huge group of people to go with, usually friends either come together or decide to meet up at the place.

And then the festivities begin!! The music is usually songs created specially for Garbha and have thankfully not yet customized themselves to Bollywood music. Mostly instrumental, there are few songs that have lyrics as well. The dance floor is a huge field divided into concentric circles. One can decide which circle you want to dance in. You will notice groups of people dancing perfectly choreographed steps as well as individuals just dancing alone for the joy of it. And that is the one cool thing about this dance. No matter how many people you come with, once you start dancing, you are part of the community. You dance in a big circle next to people whom you have never met. And more often than not, they will be more than ready to show you how to perfect that step that you just can’t manage!

If I were to make a list of things that I love about Ahmedabad, this would surely fight for the top spot. The pseudo garbha parties in Delhi and the likes are no match for the real thing. And I declare openly….I am a convert!!!

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