Gujarat has a unique distinction of having a legendary origin of her folk dance forms. The most popular and known folk dances of Gujarat are Garba, Garbi, Rasaka, Tippani, Padhar-Nritya, Dangi-Nritya etc. Most of these dances have a circle of Mandala as the basic Choreographic pattern.
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.
Rasa which is supposed to belong to Kutch and Suarashtra is performed all over Gujarat. The rasa traditions are as old as the Puranic period. In various parts of the country, Rasa are danced in different manners. The main feature of Rasa is dancing in a circle by men and woman, to the accompaniment of musical instruments and keeping time either by clapping or beating of two sticks. The number of dancers go from 8,16, 32 up to 64 couples, who also sing the song. There are three varieties of Rasaka described.
Danda Rasaka-Rasa dance where Danda or sticks are used.
Mandala or Tala Rasaka-Rasa dance where clapping is used.
Lata Rasaka-Rasa dance where dancers cling to each other and dance like a creeper to a tree.
Most of the art traditions of Gujarat trace their origin to the mythological times of Lord Krishna. He is said to have been an exponent of art of dancing. Raas Nritya is a form of dance performed by lord Krishna with Gopikas. The Dandia variety of the Raas Nritya of Gujarat is generally performed by a group of youthful persons, both males and females, who move in circles to measured steps, beating time with small sticks (called dandia) singing to the accompaniment of Dhol, Cymbals, Zanz, flute or Shehnai. When the time beat is given by the clapping of palms and performed only by males, it is called Garbi.
The Gof variety of the raas is an intricate performance wherein the performers holding coloured strings attached to a top, move in circles weaving and unweaving different patterns.
The Mers of Saurashtra are known for their folk dance called the Mer Raas. White shepherds perform what is called the Gher Raas. The Gheria Raas is a dance performed by the agriculturists of south Gujarat.
Hallisaka a group dance, in the Harivamsa Purana is very significant. This is a group dance, in a circular formation with the hands joined together forming a chain. The time (Tala) is kept by clapping and is accompanied by singing. A young man (Krishna) stands in the middle of the damsels. The feet movements, toes, heels and legs first start their journey to explore rhythmic expression measured steps, long, short, quick, and slow accompanied in single, double and triple timings.
Dangi Nrita: The Gangis are unique tribals, a blend of Gujarati and Maharashrian culture mixed harmoniously with original Dravidians. The dance performed by Dangis is called Dangi Nritya. Men and women join hands forming a chain or shrinkala making serpentine movements with one of them leading. The movements are very fast, swift and create various choreographic patterns in a fraction of a second. Each variety of step is called 'Chala' and there are about 27 varieties of these chalas. One of the most amazing sights of this dance is the creation of a human pyramid.
Folk Dances of Gujarat
Garba is an Indian form of dance that originated in the Gujarat region. It is more similar to Western folk dance than to the presentational style of Indian classical dances such as bharatanatyam and odissi.
Raas or Dandiya Raas is the traditional folk dance form of Vrindavan, India, where it is performed depicting scenes of Holi, and lila of Krishna and Radha. Along with Garba, it is the featured dance of Navratri evenings in Western India.