As Krishna is known to have shifted his seat from Mathura to Dwarika in Gujarat ‘Lasya’ too shifted to Gujarat and won great popularity on this new soil. In its new geography now its name was Garba Raas. From around the ninth century, if not before, Garba’s dedication was also shifted from Vaishnava cult of Krishna to Devi, initially to the Mother Goddess Amba, worshipped and enshrining many temples under many different names across Gujarat, though with greater thrust in its Saurashtra region, and finally, to the demon-slayer Durga. In the course of time Garba developed its different forms, though two of them revealed greater beauty of form and were always more popular than its other forms, one, acclaiming the original Garba Raas name, and the other, Dandiya.
Garba is a corrupt and abridged term for ‘Garbha Deep’, that is, the light in the womb. The idea was that in dance through which the devotee dedicates oneself to the deity the light within is kindled. Garba Raas is hence performed by ladies dancing in a ring carrying on their heads perforated earthen pots containing lit lamps in them, and thus, the light in the ‘Garbha’ revealing beyond, in the case of the dance, through the pot’s wholes. Dandiya is also a dance performed in ring, usually two rings, one moving clockwise, and other, anti-clockwise. Dandiya dancers, male and female, usually alternating each other, do not have on their heads earthen pots with lamps lit in them but instead of, a pair of ‘danda’ – sticks, in their hands, and those in one ring while crossing his or her counterpart in the other ring strike their sticks with those of the counterpart and divide the time and regulate the dancers’ pace by its beats. The change from lit lamps to sticks is contextual. Dedicated to Durga the dancers’ sticks symbolised the sword of the Great Goddess, though being ‘Lasya’, a dance revealing beauty, these sticks strike for creating rhythm sans violence, and beauty and serenity.
In the painting, the number of dancers being limited, the male in the centre, strikes his sticks with those of his female counterparts on either side. The swiftness of the dancers’ pace powerfully reflects in odhanis of the female dancers, and the sash, of the male, floating into the air. The dancers’ bare feet are suggestive of the dance’s ritual links which being dedicated to goddess Durga it essentially has. Slender tall figures of the elegantly costumed and bejeweled lady dancers, with faces charged with great emotionality reveal exceptional portrait quality. Frills of enameled gold pendants, beautifully aligning with the colourful sticks that the two ladies are carrying, are of great interest. The artist has conceived the scene of dance in a garden, perhaps with a view to suggest that Dandiya is a community ritual or at least a dance away from one’s abode, not for a courtyard in a house.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.