While the Garba is performed by women in a circle, singing and clapping rhythmically as they worship the Goddess, both men and women participate in Dandiya Raas, moving in two circles in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions, clicking dandiya, wooden sticks, with changing partners.
Both Garba and Dandiya Raas have many variations, depending on regions and communities, but the basics are always adhered to. The dance is at the heart of any celebration, and no wedding or birth of a child in a Gujarati household would be complete without them. It is so much a part of religious ritual and social interaction, that you see women of all ages, even the elderly, performing with joy and abandon, for they are celebrating the Goddess within them.
The Federation of Gujarati Associations of North America , the umbrella group for all Gujarati groups in the U.S., organizes Garba and Raas contests to ensure that the authenticity is maintained. The children of immigrants still perform these ancient dances, but they also bring in variations, influenced by Bollywood, Indipop, and Western music. So now you also see Disco Dandiya and Disco Garba.
Indeed many colleges with large Hindu populations--such as Rutgers University in New Jersey and New York University--have Raas Clubs and have Garba contests. With its emphasis on female energy, the dance has a special allure even in these modern times and connects women to their strength and potency.
As the poet Chitra Divakaruni Banerjee wrote in her poem, "The Garba":
We spin and spin
back to the villages of our
We leave behind the men, a
like moonlight on empty
seen from a speeding train.