Friday, September 21, 2007

Ganpati immersion and dancing

Yesterday I stood and watched the procession of the elephant god in the street before our flat in Belapur. They were dancing! So many raucous groups dancing to accompaniment from loud drums, cymbals, Casio keyboards played with speakers tied to bicycles. The men and women were dancing, pirouetting, their bodies shaking, their hair filled with a saffron powder. In fact, a haze of saffron hung in the darkened streets, and the energy was obvious when the graceful women danced their traditional steps, including the “poogdi-phoo (at least that is what I think it is called)” which is a dance in which two women hold hands crossed over each other, circling round and round.

I stood by and watched this peaceful procession of the “God of removal of obstacles” as Ganesha is called by Hindus. Though there were several groups having their own politically sponsored identities, none of them clashed or interfered with the other. Incidentally, “Vignaharta” is what Ganesh is called, the God who can take away those nasty stumbling blocks from one’s life. And people have faith in him and love him, that’s the reason for the show of such fervor.

That makes me think whether we need more occasions for men and women to dance in a group and shake their bodies. Yes, dancing is a healthy exercise, besides being a remover of tension. Most Indian cultures have an ethnic tradition of group dancing and music, it comes naturally to man. However, these fine art forms are dying because nobody these days dares to express their joys in social occasions anymore except at weddings, dandia ras, and at ganeshotsavs, and that too a minority. The western civilizations have transformed their traditional group dancing into a wide variety of expressions at social occasions. However, in India, group dancing hasn’t progressed beyond the tribal and traditional, and when it has, it has been influenced by Bollywood “jhatkas,” or “hip thrusting.” And here, men and women don’t dance together in courtship, or expression of their love for each other, but dance in separate knots.


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