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Garba Raas

India is a country of festivals and any festival in the country is incomplete without singing and dancing. Different states in India celebrate different festivals. Gujarat celebrates the famous nine-day long festival of Navratri during which the traditional Garba Raas is performed.

People from all around the world visit Gujarat during this festive time to enjoy the grandeur and the vibrant atmosphere. The significance of Navratri is devotion to Goddess Durga and the Garba Raas is connected to the Shakti Puja one of the nine forms of Goddess Durga.

Garba Raas

Garba Raas is a joyful dancing style performed especially during the Navratri festival and other festive occasions such as Vasant Panchami, Sharad Purnima, Holi, etc. the dance continues till midnight. Just as Lord Krishna made the Raas Dance popular, his grand daughter-in-law, Usha made the Garbas Raas popular.

The dance begins at night in an open space and is usually done by the ladies. A photograph of the goddess is kept in the centre and a circle is formed around it. The women place a Graba or a pot with a lamp on their head. Some women place a silver coin and a beetle nut inside the pot and on top a coconut is placed, while some women dance with perforated pots inside which a lamp is lit.

The dancers move in circle counter clockwise and sing and clap along with the playing of the folk instruments. The circular movement signifies the movement of time in Hinduism which is cyclical. The cycle of time rotates from birth to youth to death and then again to rebirth. The only thing that remains constant is the Goddess.

The dance begins at a slow tempo and gradually catches pace. Some women also carry the ‘Mandavali’ on their heads. This is made of bamboo chips and covered with a red silk cloth. The Mandavali represents the Goddess. The women dance with it for some time and later keep it in the centre.

The modern Garba Raas is quite influenced by the Dandiya Raas. There are several forms of Garba such as garbi, 3 taali, hulo, dandiya raas, dodhiyu, etc. The Garba styles differ from one place to another in Gujarat. Today Garba is not just restricted to Gujarat. During the Navratri festival it is performed in several parts of India.


The word Garba originates from the Sanskrit word “Garbha” meaning “womb” and the word “Deep”, a small earthenware lamp. The dance is customarily performed around an earthenware lamp with a light burning inside known as the Garbha Deep. This lantern signifies life and the dancers pay their tribute to the Goddess.

Popularity Outside India

Garba Raas is quite popular in the United States, especially among the student community. Every year more than 20 universities across the United States conduct Garba competitions with splendour. One of the most popular competitions the Garba with Attitude is hosted at the University of California.  These competitions are conducted to exhibit the cultural values and awareness. The dance form is also quite popular in the United Kingdom and Canada. The Gujarati communities in these countries conduct their own Garbha nights.

Costumes and Music

The dress worn while performing Garba Raas is quite bright and colourful. These days many women prefer wearing saree but  the traditional costume is an embroidered three piece dress comprising of ghaghara (long skirt), choli (blouse) along with odhani or head cover. The jewellery complimenting the dress is quite heavy. It consisting of necklaces, long earrings or jhumkas, bangles, armlets, anklets, head decorations all typically made from silver or oxidized metal. Men wear Kediyum or shirts and Vajani or trousers and a head covering.

The Garba songs are usually centred on the subject of nine goddesses or Lord Krishna. The rhythm is maintained by a Dholi or a drummer who sits in the centre. Other traditional instruments that are used during the Garba Raas include the tabla, harmonium and nal. However in the present time live musicians are invited to perform during the dance.

Admiration among Youth

Garba has gained a lot of admiration from the youth across the country. In different cities during the Navratri festival youths can be seen organizing and performing Garba to loud music. The music is often played by a DJ, live performances are also prevalent.

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