Gujarati Folk Dances

Gujarat is known as the 'Land of Festivals'. A number of fairs and festivals are celebrated in the state with great fervor and joy. The celebrations of these occasions are accompanied with traditional dance and music performances. The state has been blessed with a rich tradition of performing arts. The various song, dance and drama forms practiced in Gujarat are famous throughout India.


The most fascinating fact of all is that the origin of these performing arts dates back to the ancient era of Lord Krishna. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna spent the early days of his life in Gokul. Here, he charmed the natives by playing the flute and dancing. He performed Raas Leela with the Gopis, which is remembered till date. After he became the ruler of Dwarka, he patronized folk songs and dances in his kingdom. Since, then the Gujaratis have maintained the tradition and preserved the heritage in all its glory.


The popular folk dances of Ras Dances of Gujarat are Dandiya Raas, Garba Raas,& Tippani.


Raas is one of the popular dance forms of Gujarat. It is derived from the Raas Leela performed by Lord Krishna in Gokul and Vrindavan. Ras is usually performed by a group of youthful people. They take measured steps and move in a circle, on the beats of musical instruments, like Dhol, Cymbals, Zanz and Shehnai (Flute). There are two types of Ras Dances: Garba Raas & Dandiya Raas

The main difference between the `Garba` and `Dandiya` dance performances is that Garba is performed before `Aarti` of Godess while Dandia is performed after it. Exclusively women perform Garba, 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 Ras are slightly more complex than that of Garba.


Generally, women wear sari in the Gujarati style. But in different parts of Gujarat ,every community wears different style of clothes. In Saurashtra region, women wear artistically embroidered petticoats (Ghaghara), a backless choli (Kapdu) and a head cover (odhani) with lots of silver and head. Males wear Kediyum (shirt) Vajani (trouser) and Rumal a printed head piece with on the waist, neck and hands.


The musical instruments used for Garba are mainly the drum or dhol and cymbals, zanz, shehnai (flute). Even, in some parts now the Harmoniums are also used. Garba songs are devotional mostly in praise of Mother Goddess Jagdamba describing her form, powers, and invoking her blessings.


Garba Raas is a ancient folk dance of Gujarat. The credit for promoting Garba goes to Usha, the grand daughter-in-law of Shri Krishna. It was earlier known as Lasya Nritya, performed by women in the honor of goddess Maa Jagdambe, the Mother Goddess. The word Garba is derived from the word `Garbha Deep` (a lamp inside a perforated earthen pot). The light inside the perforated earthen pot symbolised the embryonic life. This also signifies value of knowledge (light), as opposed to the darkness (ignorance).

In this folk dance, ladies place the pot known as Garba with the lamp on their heads and move in circular direction, singing at the same time measure by clapping their palms or snapping their fingers, to the accompaniment of folk instruments on the nine nights of Navaratri festival, Sharad Purnima, Vasant Panchami, Holi and such other festive occasions.


Dandiya Raas is the most popular dance of Gujarat Infact, it is a special feature of the Navratri festival known as the `stick` dance. The festival is celebrated to pay homage to the nine incarnations of Mata Amb, the Mother Goddess. People observe fasts on all nine days of the festival & is full of energy and excitement.

The word Ras in `Dandia-Ras` signifies Ras dance, which is, considered a form of Ras Leela. Ras Leela, which was an inseparable part of Lord Krishna`s childhood action he used to perform at Gokul and Vrindavan. The Ras is simple and is generally performed by a group of youthful people who move in typical style in measured steps around a circle, accompanied by a singing chorus.The sprightly circular movements to the scintillating beats of the dhol are mesmerizing and transport one to a totally different world of rhythm and joy.


There are many folk dances in India that typically represents the community related activities and their functional aspect. The Tippani folk dance is also a dance of such pattern. In this dance, women labourers those are engaged in construction work strike on the floor with long sticks called Tippani. From which the dance is termed as Tippani dance. They use a rhythmic musical process to escape from the workload that is involved in their task. This dance is one of the examples of the virile dance forms of the folk dances in Gujarat.

Women from sea side resort of Chorwad used to beat the floor with long sticks, and sing in a particular pace, while others dance in swirling of skirts. With simple instruments like a `Turi` and a `Thali` i.e. brass plate the dancers generate the music.

Generally, members of the Halli community perform this energetic dance form. It is usually performed on festivals like Holi or Diwali and on the ceremonies like wedding.

The costumes and the instruments used for this folk dance are also typical & traditional. Folk costumes for the dance mostly consist of a short coat called Kedia with tight sleeves having embroidered borders and shoulders, tight trousers like the Churidars and colourfully embroidered caps or coloured turbans and a coloured waist band.