The Celestial Rhythm of Dandiya

Dandiya Raas is the most popular dance performed during the Navaratri Festival in India. Though said to be belonging to Gujarat it is also being performed in other Indian states too.

The dance form usually performed in a group, by both men and women. The special feature of the Dandiya dance is the colourful attire worn by the dancers and the colourful sticks carried by them. The wooden sticks are used as a prop and are beautifully decorated.

It is for this reason this dance is also called the ‘Stick Dance’. The sticks are made of bamboo which is painted in different colours to make them look attractive. The performers hold sticks in both their hands and strike them together on the beats of the musical instruments. Dandiya Ras involves a huge number of people at a time. According to the dance setting, two circles are formed by the dancers.

Dandiya the folk dance is a very energetic and playful dance providing an opportunity for acting and exchanging messages through eye contact. The uniqueness of dandiya from the rest of the Indian dance forms is the use of colourful, musical sticks, its dress code, the scope it offers for improvisation, innovation and creativity, and the massive number of dancers in any single programme. As for sticks, they are traditionally made of bamboo.

Navratri and Dandiya Dance

The Navratri festival is celebrated to pay homage to the nine incarnations of Mata Ambe, the Mother Goddess. People all over the country observe fasts on all nine days of the festival and pay regular visits to temples. While the days are filled with devotion towards the deity, the nights are vibrant, reflecting the festive spirit at its peak. Special arrangements are made for Dandiya dance performances. The state government of Gujarat organizes a special event for Dandiya for the entertainment of the people. The festival is very popular during the season in October.

Dress Code

Another identifiable feature of dandiya is its dress code. The dress code for women and men are different. For women, it is a three-piece ghagra, cholis, and odhni. Men in Dandiya dress up in matching colourful traditional dhotis and aangrakha or kurtas with loads of mirrors on the dress.

Dandiya was secular in its origin and has an intimate relation with the common man`s life of the day. It was originally performed only by men with long sticks in their hands and was designed to serve as learning modules for the practice of footwork for sword fighting.

This dance with fast movements was a dance of martial arts variety. Then later it would be accompanied by a percussion instrument `meddale` drummer who stands at the center of the circle and leads the dance with the rhythmic beats.

Steps involved in the dance

It is a very simple dance and is performed by a group who move in circles to measure steps, marking time by sticks called Dandiya. Dandiya are the featured dances of Navratri evenings in Gujarat. The sticks of the dance represent the sword of Durga. Women normally perform it in a graceful and rhythmic manner in a circle as they rotate around the ‘mandvi’. The women in Dandiya wear traditional dresses such as colorful embroidered choli, ghagra and bandhani dupattas dazzling with mirror work and heavy jewellery.

The major difference between the ‘Garba’ and ‘Dandiya’ dance performances is that Garba is performed before ‘Aarti’ while Dandiya is performed after it. Garba is performed exclusively by women, men and women join in for Dandiya. Also known as ‘stick dance’ as performers use a pair of colorfully decorated sticks as props, the circular movements of Dandiya Raas are slightly more complex than that of Garba.

Dandiya Raas One of the circles revolves clockwise, while the other revolves anti clockwise. The dance is a very energetic and fast paced activity, which leaves no scope for lethargy. The dancers are accompanied by an instrument player with a ‘meddale’ drum. The person stands in the center of the two circles and leads the dancers with his beats. The site of hundreds of people swaying on the beats of folk music is awe-inspiring. The sticks or the Dandiyas, when struck together in a rhythm, produce foot tapping musical waves. The best Raas dancers of the region are the Kathiawari Ras dancers from Saurashtra.