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Gujarat Music and Dance

In the field of music, Gujarat has made its own contribution. A number of Ragas bear the territorial names of Gujarat such as Gujaqri Todi, Bilaval (from Veraval), Sorathi (from Sorath), Khambavati (from Khambhat, Cambay), Ahiri and Lati. These are invaluable gifts of Gujarat to the classical music of India. Jesingbhai, the creator of the Vichitra Veena, a musical string instrument, was from Ahmedabad. Gujarat has preserved folk music in its pure and pristine form by Charans and Gadhavis, a community whose hereditary profession is folk music and folk arts. Lullaby, Nupital songs, festive songs, Rannade songs are the different types of folk songs in Gujarat. Marsias is a peculiar form of singing at the time of death. The Vaishnava cult in Gujarat has produced a special variety of music which can be classified as temple-music. Besides its contribution to classical and folk music, Gujarat has produced its own folk instruments. Pavo, Shehani, Murli, Turi, Taturi and Bungal are the wind type instruments, while Ravan Hattho, Ektaro, and Jantar are string instruments, Manjira, Zanz, Damru, Tabla, Nagara, and pot drum percussion instruments.

Stage Art - Bhavai
A typical folk drama of Gujarat called Bhavai is performed in village and temple grounds by professional communities of North Gujarat - the Taragalas, Bhojakas, etc. The word Bhavai is derived from the Sanskrit word "Bhava" meaning expression of emotion. The Bhavai drama is a continuous performance lasting the whole night in which many "veshas" are performed in the open without any stage equipment. These Veshas depict episodes from the social life of communities in the countryside, focusing in a satirical or farcical way the characteristics of certain sections - Banias, Bohras, wandering tribes, etc. Continuous playing on the Bhungal, a very long wind brass instrument, before and during the performance calls the rural patrons to the scene of the Bhavai. Women are strictly tabooed from taking part in the Bhavai. Their role is performed by the male artists which makes the entire drama more ridiculous. The repertoire of the Bhavai is limited to about three dozen veshas, the authorship of which is attributed to Asait.

Gujarat has a unique distinction of having a legendary origin of folk dance forms. There are certain folk dances which typically represent the community activities and their functional aspect. The Tippani folk dance is a dance of such a variety in which women labourers engaged in construction work, strike the floor with long sticks called Tippani. They have a rhythmic music. The tribes in Gujarat have their own forms of the folk dances. The costumes and the instruments used during these folk dances are typical folk costumes which mostly consist of a short coat called Kedia with tight sleeves with embroidered borders and shoulders, tight trousers like the Churidars and colourfully embroidered caps or coloured turbans and a coloured waist band. 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.

Hallisaka 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 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 Maharashtrian 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 is 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.

Rasa is a form of dance 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 is 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 to 64 couples, who also sing the song. There are three varieties of Rasaka. Danda Rasaka is the Rasa dance where Danda or sticks are used. In the mandala or Tala Rasaka Rasa dance clapping is used. Lata Rasaka is the 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, flute or Shehnai. When the 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 where the performers hold coloured strings attached to a top, moving 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.

Garba Dance
Garba Dance is a popular folk dance of Gujarat. It is a circular form of dance performed by ladies on the Navaratri days, Sharad Purnima, Vasant Panchami, Holi and other festive occasions. The word Garba is derived from the word Garbha Deep meaning a lamp inside a perforated earthen pot. The light inside the perforated earthen pot symbolize the embryonic life. In this folk dance, ladies place the pot with the lamp on their heads and move in circles, with a photograph of the goddess or a lamp in the centre singing and clapping their palms or snapping their fingers, to the accompaniment of folk instruments. The actual performance begins at night after the women finish their household work. The dancing begins with slow tempo and reaches a fast tempo. The rhythm is kept by a Dholi or drummer who sit in the centre. Sometimes, women carry on their heads 'Mandavali' a small canopy made of bamboo chips covered with a red silk piece of cloth. They dance with it and later put it in the centre. Mandavali symbolises the temple of the goddess. Each community wears different clothes. In Saurashtra, women wear embroidered petticoats (Ghaghara), a backless choli (Kapdu) and a head cover (odhani) with lots of silver and head ornaments. Males wear Kediyum (shirt), Vajani (trouser) and Rumal, a printed head piece with silver ornaments on the waist, neck and hands. The musical instruments used for Garba are mainly thedrum or dhol and Nal. Garba songs are mostly in praise of Mother Goddess Amba describing her form, powers, and invoking her blessings. Also there are Garbas describing seasons and social themes of domestic and married life.

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