Religion governs the way of life of any religious community. When a community lives in a specific location, over time, the community develops cultural and social habits such as food habits, dress codes, celebrations, and cremation rituals, among other things.
And then, over the years or decades, the socio-cultural behaviour of that particular community, governed by their religion, gets associated with the place as well. The culture of a particular community has grown to be the culture of that particular place or region.
This is the way civilisation grows. But, here is a catch: the culture may have expanded itself, but the community it originated in still remains the sole owner of it. This can be understood with Yoga.
Today, the entire world celebrates International Yoga Day. As Yoga expanded its footprints, a new trend emerged whereby Yoga was claimed to be neither Vedic nor Hindu in origin. However, Bhagwan Shiv, known as AdiYogi, is said to have imparted the knowledge of Yoga to mankind, thereby earning the title of the first guru (Adi Yogi). The first reference to yoga is made in the Rigveda.
The same is the case with Garba.
Recent controversies around Garba
In the past few days, several incidents have been reported of Muslim men gatecrashing Garba venues. An attempt that was fiercely countered by Hindus. A man in his 20s was held for making inappropriate comments towards girls and hiding his identity while attending a Garba event in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
In a second such incident, Bajrang Dal caught eight Muslim youths at Garba venues for being involved in “immoral activities”. Dal’s leader has also claimed that the group was hiding their identities.
The incidents are not just limited to Indore. In Ahmedabad as well, a Muslim man was held for entrapping Hindu girls. Another incident was reported where men from other communities were found filming Hindu girls at the Garba event while pretending to be Hindus.
The Garba organisers and the Hindu organisations have a clear stand on the issue. Identity cards have been made mandatory, and only Hindus are being allowed to enter the Garba Pandal with a strict identification process.
However, these multiple incidences over a short period of time have given birth to another debate fuelled by liberals. The most heated question is, “When Garba is being played in a public place, at a community level, why are only Hindus allowed? Why isn’t the Ganga Jamuni Tehzeeb respected? Well, let’s first understand the concept of Garba.
The Concept of Navratri and Garba
What is garba? To state it simply, Garba is a dance form that originated in the villages of Gujarat and has religious importance for Sanatan Dharma as it is only performed during the Navratri.
Navratri is a Hindu festival in which the feminine form of divinity is worshipped for nine nights. Shakti is worshipped in nine forms, from the fierce sword-wielding Kaalratri to the creator of the universe, Maa Kushmanda. While some fast for nine days, some follow a restricted niramish diet. During this time, Garba is performed. The word Garba originated from the Sanskrit word ‘garbha’, meaning womb.
So, during the Navratra, a clay lantern with light inside, called a garbhadeep, is kept at the centre around which Garba, a dance with clapping, is performed in circles. It has two symbolic meanings. First, the garbhadeep is a symbol of the body within which divinity resides. Sometimes the image of Mata Durga is at the centre of the circle in lieu of the garbha deep.
Second, the dance is performed in circles, depicting the cycle of life, from birth to death to rebirth again, and during the entire cycle, one thing remains constant, around which everything revolves, the power of divinity itself.
Garba, being a religious practice, is danced barefoot and is performed to devotional songs sung to praise Mata Rani.
The commercialisation of Garba and the immediate need of reforms
With globalisation, a lot has changed in India, and Garba was not secluded either. A dance which was performed for Maa Durga slowly became a thing of entertainment. While the majority celebrates Garba the way it should be, the beginning of the internet age has marked the degradation and culture needs to be preserved.
Many people today view Garba as a reason for fun and frolic. Many malpractices are observed, like extortion of donations, high volumes with no concern for others, entry of filmy songs rather than devotional ones. Garba was traditionally performed in customary attire in which the body moved in a particular rhythm.
However, in the name of Garba, all manner of steps, sometimes vulgar, are now performed. Garba has also become a place of mischief, with incidents of inappropriate touching increasing each day. To add on, in the corporate culture, Garba nights and Dandiya nights are being organised in societies and MNCs which have no connection with worshipping Mata Durga. The cultural events are held to eat and drink in the name of Garba nights.
Ways to preserve the culture
The need of the hour is to preserve the culture of Garba from being a B-Town party. While the organisers are at work, it is necessary to communicate the significance and sacredness of Garba to the general public. Garba is as much Hindu as it can be, and it is required to preserve its sanctity, thus preventing further distortion of the sanatan dharma.
While many may argue about the propagation of Garba culture, the intent of Muslim men who entered the Garba venue with false identities raises severe questions: why were they there? It is not to worship the divinity, as in their religion there is only one supreme power and no one should bow down before anyone else.
So, for entrapping young girls may be? In the mainstream media language, it is called Love Jihaad. In recent years, it has been observed that garba venues have become an adda of such malpractices. Here, the words of Usha Thakur, the minister of tourism and culture, said that “Garba” programmes have become places of Love Jihad, and Muslims will be welcomed at Garbas if their sacred scripture, Quran, permits them to pursue idol worship.
The menace of Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb
There has been a constant attempt to revive Hindu festivals by the followers of Sanatan Dharma. Holi has become a festival of colour that can be played by all. Diwali becomes a festival of lights. While there is no problem with these festivals expanding and appealing to a lot of people, the problem arises when the Sanatani stories associated with these festivals, their religious importance, and the values they seek to impart are sidelined in the wake of fun and enjoyment. Festivals bring us together, but they also convey a message.
Further, the burden of maintaining India’s ancient synergistic culture, the Hindu festivals, are chosen by the liberal community. This is a move to separate religion from our festivals. Graba is not just a folk dance; Garba is a way to worship the divinity, the feminine goddess, Maa Durga, the Shakti.
The secularisation of Hindu festivals is something that has done the utmost damage. People unaware of religious beliefs and cultural practises enter to celebrate and end up maligning them. Thus, one thing should be made very clear: Garba is a Hindu celebration, Garba is deeply associated with the Sanatan Dharma, and its preservation is necessary.
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