Nine nights of revelry

Garba dancers. Photo: Kavita Kanan Chandra   | Photo Credit: mail

In no time the bedecked Alembic ground in Vadodara swelled with garba revellers. As the clock struck half past nine, the dancers waited for the mesmerising voice of popular singer Atul Purohit. As he invoked the blessings of Goddess Amba (Durga) with the chant of ‘Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu’, around 30,000 dancers stirred. The hugely popular singer needed no introduction to the Gujarati diaspora across the world.

As the night advanced and the tempo increased, Purohit and his cult music group, Rutambhara, belted popular Navratri songs such as ‘Tara Vina Shyam Mane’. The women in their multi-hued, glittering chaniya-cholis swirled around. The men wore kediyu- kafnis and aangrakha-dhotis with mirror work, embroidered caps, colourful pagri or traditional kurtas. The dancers repeated in unison ‘hove hove,’ clapping in rhythm to the singers. As thousands swung to the garba beats, the night came alive and hit a crescendo just before midnight. 

For the nine nights of Navratri, the residents of Vadodara are literally swept off their feet, with the city decked up for the extravaganza and the fervour reaching a fever pitch each night at the multitude of garba venues. The Navratri and the garba have become an inseparable part of Gujarat’s identity. Vadodara, in particular, stands out for holding the most traditional garba. No Bollywood steps or DJs; the city has retained the essence of Navratri befitting its status as Sanskarinagari or cultural city. Even the outfits are fully ethnic, with Kutchi embroidery, and aabhla mirror work, and apt accessories.

The word ‘garba’ comes from the Sanskrit ‘garbha’ (womb) or source of life, and it is danced in concentric circles around a perforated earthen pot with a lamp inside called the ‘garbo’. A coconut is placed on top of an earthen pot filled with water, which has a betel nut and silver coin symbolising the universe. The circular dance signifies the cycle of creation, maintenance and destruction.

The locals love their home-grown singers. — Achal Mehta of Maa Shakti Garba, Falguni Bhesania of the oldest Mehsananagar Garba, and Paritosh Goswami, who performed at Vishwas Garba, are household names.

While the garba has been evolving, with innovative steps and music remixes, Vadodara adheres to tradition and revels in folk songs devoted to Amba and Radha-Krishna. Popular songs include ‘Mor Bani Thangat Kare’, ‘Leeli Lemdi Re’, ‘Chapti Bhari Chokha’, ‘Taara Naam Ni Chundadi Odhi’ to and the soulful ‘Taara Vina Shyam,’ the latter almost the garba anthem of Gujarat. Interestingly, it was composed by violinist Vinod Iyenger, who has Tamil roots. Based on raag Ahir Bhairav, the song was an instant hit when first played in 1983.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 8:24:24 PM |

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