Dandiya Raas: the stick dance

March 22, 2017


Before celebrating Holi, The Shekhawati Project team went to the opening ceremony of this most famous Indian festival. After a fast ride in rickshaws, we arrived at a sandy place where there was a big top with shiny garlands, lights and multiple colours. Musicians wearing turbans and kurta were sitting in the middle with percussion instruments, including a dholak, and a flute. Some were dancing normally, but more surprisingly we discovered the traditional dance called Dandiya Raas. Indeed, dozens of men and children were dancing in a circle around a live orchestra with one bamboo stick in each hand. They invited us to participate and we quickly understood that we had to collide with our dancing neighbours, and knock our sticks against theirs, moving our feet and keeping to the rhythm of the music. An unusual experience! But a nice one to share. 



I wanted to learn more about this stick dance so I did some research and discovered that it is dedicated to Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, the God of Music and Love. Dandiya (wich means « sticks ») is also called « The Sword Dance ». Indeed, it represents the swords of Durga, a warrior Goddess combating demonic forces, and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king. 


 The Goddess Durga


However, this traditional dance has several forms and names, depending on the region and the time of year.  So if you go to Gujarat, it will be different from that of Rajasthan, for example. In some cases, women also participate, and you have two distinct circles instead of one. 


But most surprisingly, Paola, our expert restorer, discovered a Dandiya Raas dance fresco scene on the exterior wall of the haveli in the garden… We previously had no idea what it meant and maybe never actually noticed or understood it… 




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