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 andRadha. Along with Garba, it is the featured dance of Navratri evenings in Western India. During Navratri festival, in most of the cities of Gujarat and inMumbai people gather and perform Garba dance.
There are several forms of Raas, but “Dandiya Raas”, performed during Navaratri in Gujarat is the most popular form. Other forms of Raas include Dang Lila from Rajasthan where only one large stick is used, and “Rasa lila” from North India. Raas Lila and Dandiya Raas are similar. Some even consider “Garba” as a form of Raas, namely “Raas Garba”.
In Dandiya Raas men and women dance in two circles, with sticks in their hands. In the old times Raas did not involve much singing, just the beat of Dhol was enough. “Dandiya” or sticks, are about 18″ long. Each dancer holds two, although some times when they are short on Dandiya they will use just one in right hand. Generally, in a four beat rhythm, opposite sides hit the sticks at the same time, creating a nice sound. One circle goes clockwise and another counter clockwise. In the west, people don’t form full circles, but instead often form rows.
The Dandiya Raas dance originated as devotional Garba dances, which were performed in Goddess Durga’s honor. This dance form is actually the staging of a mock-fight between Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king. This dance is also nicknamed ‘The Sword Dance’. The sticks of the dance represent the sword of Goddess Durga.
The origin of these dances can be traced back to the life of Lord Krishna. Today, Raas is not only an important part of Navaratri in Gujarat but extends itself to other festivals related to harvest and crops as well.