One of the prominent festivals celebrating the victory of Shakti, the feminine, over evil is the grandiose celebration of the Navratri festival- celebrated by Indians all over the globe. Gujarat, the state I belong to, is renowned for the majestic and magnificent show of cultural richness and vivacity during this time. Yes, the festival does something to the mind-set of us Gujaratis and aptly galvanizes the natives into a state of euphoria and celebration. The Navratri Garba is now officially the longest and largest dance festival of the world! Nine nights of feverous dancing and decking up with glittering traditional outfits like the intricately embroidered and mirror-work embellished chaniya cholis for the ladies and kedias with dhotis for the men, twirling to the resonant beat of the dhol, is a spectacular sight to behold. The vibrant, colourful, and flowy dresses are designed in a specific fashion to allow free dance movements- so that dancers can twirl, twist and spin and jump as they clap their hands. The traditional dance festival leaves an imprint on your heart, more so if you belong to Gujarat. There is something in the air during the Garba evenings, the festivity, the celebratory air and spirit of festivity; it all just elates the heart. So much so that it evoked the artist in me to paint this impressionable festival to commemorate its colourful and energy laden spirit.
The lady in my painting represents the Goddess Amba. Drop dead gorgeous, jet black eyes to match the long hair loosely tied in a plait she holds the power to destroy as well as create. Her hairline is decorated with a bindi sitting on the Agya Chakra, signifying the holy union with her partner on a spiritual, physical and emotional level; on her forehead she wears a bold red vermillion teeka that shows her courage, confidence and marital status as per Hindu religion as well as the invisible third eye that has special vision to see inside the soul. She also adorns colourful bangles, necklace, a finger ring, an ornamental nose-pin and matching earrings. Her palms are henna decorated, as a mark of the celebration. A blue dhupatta representing the sky covers her hair and she holds it to make a veil to save her beauty for the man she has eyes for. Everything about her attire is traditionally festive, and perfectly in sync. The Shakti is pleased with revelries and to be in the company of her soul-mate. She honours the element that completes her existence with an admiring look, as gently holds him by the shoulder for support as well as assurance. She knows within, unless she stands behind him, he will not be able to face the world with strength and fearlessness. Her other half is equally elegantly dressed for the raas-Garba. His head gear is a traditional print of bandhani stylishly tied, that he wears with pride. His eyes speak volumes…acknowledging the support on the Shakti by his side, yet not looking at her directly. His moustache is a sign of masculinity and courage. He holds a lotus with unfolding petals suggesting the expansion of the soul, in his hands as an offering to the Shakti.
I have observed and experienced this level of spiritual connection for years together, with my husband and soul-mate, before painting this one. For years I knew I had to express this wondrous feeling of completeness, of feeling as if I converted to the Shakti-avataar as I got ready for the Garba night. I carried that emotion in my heart until one day it transformed into inspiration and the forms, composition and colours just began to flow, and this art form was created. Whenever I look at this painting a tide of emotions rises in my heart and reminds me of every Garba night I have celebrated over the years. When you look at this painting, you too will begin to hear the earthy pulsating traditional Garba music in the background…you will see thousands of dancers moving around you in perfect rhythm and synchronicity. You will be mesmerised by the decorations and enthusiasm of the revellers. You will see inhibitions dissolved and the dancers consumed by the vigour to celebrate the triumph of Goddess Amba. The painting will remind you that Garba is played and not danced!