Dazzling colourful clothes, the fervent beats of the dhol, the tightly clasped dandiya sticks, the rush of dancing into the night along with your community - nothing is more looked forward to than Dandiya during the days of Navratri. Dandiya or the Garba dances are performed in the honour of Ma Durga. Historically, the dance form is the staging of the terrifying fight that takes place between the Goddess and Mahishasura, the demon king and the dance is also referred to as “the sword dance”. The sticks (dandiyas) used in the dance represent the swords of Durga. It is also associated with the harvest time.
Like poetry expressed through complex movements, the dance marries energetic, brilliant choreography with synchronized beats of the dhol and traditional Rajasthani music. Other percussion instruments used are the dholak, tabla and others.
The women folk usually get dressed elaborately for Dandiya evenings. They wear traditional dresses such as colourful embroidered choli, ghagra and bandahni dupattas, These dresses dazzle with mirror work and are complimented by heavy jewellery like ornate neck pieces, heavy, drooping earrings and maang tikka.
“The Punjabi Sabha organizes festivities for Navratri every year. For us, the festival is not just about having the puja here, but also to bring everybody together and making sure that everyone has a good time. We celebrate on all the days of the Navratri and in the evenings, everyone gets together for dandiya, which is a favorite activity for everyone who comes here,” says Janak Madaan, the Vice President of the Punjabi Sabha.
This year, the Punjabi Sabha organised a Dandiya fest at the Jayamahal Palace, in the city, and over 800 people attended the show. The main highlight was a performance by Delhi-based singer, Amarjeet Singh Bijli, who enthralled the crowd, while they danced away. “We have people from different communities joining us, and not just the Punjabis. The festival stands as a symbol for good’s win over evil and as we celebrate this age old festival, we come together as one large community,” says Madaan.
“There are usually three categories of people who come: some, very few - like us, who are not Rajashtani or Gujarati, but are there for the sheer love of dance; some who come decked up in heavy jewellery that they hire - they come to compete in competitions and range from 3 to 60 years; and finally, the older Gujarati and Rajasthani couples, who come because their festival is incomplete without following this tradition,”says Avaneeja Rajesh, an English lecturer.
According to her, these dance melas draw immense crowds in the city as it is ‘like a large community party - which is absent in south India”. “And like all parties, the crowd really sets in after 11 pm and can continue up to 2 am, or even 4 am in the absence of police restrictions. So each place has its share of techie visitors who come to socialise and perhaps even find partners,” she continues.
“Apart from the dance, which is of course the highlight, these spaces in Jayanagar also offer an atmosphere of tradition, where Ma Durga is worshiped with an aarti each night and the Gujarati and Rajasthani cuisines that are on offer, while Palace Grounds is more cosmopolitan,” Avaneeja concludes.