Dandiya and Garba are the featured dances of Navratri evenings in Gujarat. Originated as devotional Garba dances, which were performed in the honor of Goddess Durga, this dance form is actually the staging of a mock-fight between the Goddess and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king. 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 wear traditional dresses such as colorful embroidered choli, ghagra and bandhani dupattas dazzling with mirror work and heavy jewellery. The dancers whirl and move their feet and arms in a choreographed manner to the tune of the music with lots of drum beats.
The main difference between the ‘Garba’ and ‘Dandiya’ dance performances is that Garba is performed before ‘Aarti’ (worshipping ritual) as devotional performances in the honor of the Goddess while Dandiya is performed after it, as a part of merriment. While 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. The dancers strike the sticks with their partners to the rhythm of the music. The origin of these dance performances or ‘Raas’ can be traced back to the life of Lord Krishna. Today, ‘Rasa’ is not only an important part of Navaratra in Gujarat but extends itself to other festivals related to harvest and crops as well.