India’s Sticks and Dance Festival in Modern Times

In India, the concept of BYOB (bring-your-own-beer) is unheard of, but BYO Sticks is commonplace. I can’t believe I’ve called one of India’s most fun and celebrated festivals one of ‘Sticks and Dance,’ but truth be told, that’s exactly what it is.

During these nine-nights of Navratri (this year 12-20 October — depending in the moon), huge tents are set up throughout the country and people get together to dance ‘dandiya’ (dance with sticks). If you have watched any Bollywood films and wondered if we dance like that in India, the answer is yes — in weddings and in this festival.

As with most Hindu festivals, hundreds and thousands of people go to pray on the occasions; stampedes happen and people die, (in a country of over a billion, these things are unfortunately commonplace) but in general they are happy celebrations. People get together in traditional outfits or fused-modern ones, and as long as you have two foot-size wooden sticks and are willing to hit other peoples foot-size wooden sticks to the beat of drums, you are more than welcome.

This festival is probably India’s most joyous; attendance levels at work and educational institutions are low and political campaigns take a step back as they know people are too busy hitting each others sticks till the wee hours of the morning; except in Mumbai perhaps where open air fiesta has to shut at midnight. I laughed out loud when I read that in Mumbai, dancing is only permitted until midnight because of the noise levels, but dandiya venues managed to overcome that problem by offering guests headphones to wear while they dance!

Great time to visit India if you want enjoy rocking to Indian music and want to experience the cultural partying scene of the Indian youth.