Vibrant & beautiful: festival of Navratri

Vibrant & beautiful: festival of Navratri
Highlights

The festival of Navratri, as we all are aware, is celebrated all over India. But, there’s a reason why the mere mention of the name “Navratri” invariably draws one’s mind towards Gujarat and Ahmedabad, in particular.

To experience Navratri in Gujarati style, visit Ahmedabad

The festival of Navratri, as we all are aware, is celebrated all over India. But, there’s a reason why the mere mention of the name “Navratri” invariably draws one’s mind towards Gujarat and Ahmedabad, in particular.

This is because nowhere else does one get to witness the transformation of every street in a city into a bustling carnival of colours and a vivid visual masterpiece. The energy and the vibes that the city radiates during these nine days and nights during a series of celebrations, which are absolutely amazing.

During these nine days, the city of Ahmedabad dons the look of a bejewelled bride. The days are somewhat quiet but as soon as first streetlight is switched on, young men and women berserk with excitement and dressed in their finest traditional outfits swarm the roads. Almost everybody on the streets is seen heading to a nearby ground to participate in the night-long dances.

Navratri is also the world’s longest dance festival. One of the biggest attractions of this vibrant festival is dancing, especially the “dandiya raas”, a famous folk dance of Gujarat. This dance form has become immensely popular these days, even outside the state. Everyone willingly spends hours first practising and then performing this merry dance during the Navratri nights.

While visiting Ahmedabad to soak in the flavours of the festivities, we decided to head to Manek Chowk, the traditional quarters located right at the heart of the city. This is where residents of Ahmedabad, old and new, head to for a gala night!

Another highlight of the Navratri celebrations is the traditional dance form “Garba”, which is there by default in every Gujarati’s blood. People, dressed in the most radiant and colourful traditional outfits congregate in large numbers with their “Dandia sticks” to immerse themselves in this delightful dance form. The authentic Gujarati food is also relished at the various food stalls that spring up everywhere during the festival.

Manek Chowk is also a street food heaven that is open until the wee hours of the night. The atmosphere here is eclectic on Garba nights. We could spot hundreds of Garba dancers relishing the tasty offer on offer – a combination of traditional and contemporary street food.

We had chosen Manek Chowk particularly to witness what the locals in Gujarat call, Sheri Garba – the traditional form of Garba that is performed devoid of any orchestra or Bollywood music. These Garbas are still organised in small lanes and pols (a housing system indigenous to Ahmedabad) of the old city and is a more intimate affair with local singers singing traditional songs and very often families and friends catching up with each other.

While in the old city during Navratri, we also were fortunate to witness a particular Garba dance form wherein women balance mud pots on their heads and dance in a circle in true devotion to the Goddess. The mud pots are lit and called “Mata no Garbo”.

We learnt that this is one of the purest Garba dance forms, the practice of which is unfortunately on the decline, especially in cities under the onslaught of the so-called Bollywood style. However, it was heartening to learn that this particular dance form is still quite popular in the villages of Gujarat.

It is widely believed that before Pandavas and Kauravas waged war against each other, Krishna had worshipped Durga (in nine different forms) so that the Pandavas could win the war. These nine different forms of the goddess are worshipped on nine days as Nava Durga during Navratri.

The tenth day of this festival is called Dussehra or Vijayadashami. This is the significance of this beautiful and vibrant festival that goes on for nine long days and is nothing less than a feast.

Early spring and the beginning of autumn are considered to be a very auspicious period to worship goddess Durga. This is also the beginning of both autumn and spring, which is when the significant junction of solar and climatic influences happens. The dates of Navratri are usually determined based on lunar calendar.

It is during Navratri that the practice of wearing a particular coloured dress is followed. Nine different colours are followed on each day until the last day. And as per the day, women dress up in that particular colour. This practice is followed across the nation, even at work places.

There are also many fascinating mythological stories about the history of this beautiful festival. It is said that demon Mahishasur had been granted a boon by the fire god Agni as per which he couldn’t be destroyed by any kind of weapon that would have a masculine name.

Taking disadvantage of this boon, the demon spread his terror and destruction all over. Immensely worried at the destruction being caused by the demon, the Gods sought help from Shiva. It was then that Shiva suggested they evoke Shakti, the feminine manifestation of the supreme power.

The Gods prayed with great dedication and devotion and as answers to their prayers, goddess Durga in the form of Adhya Shakti fought with all her might for nine days to kill Mahishasur.

Ahmedabad during Navratri is akin to a grand cocktail for the traveller. If I were, to sum up my Ahmedabad-during-Navratri-experience in a nutshell, it would be this: Complete immersion in local tradition mixed with loads and loads of fun and served on the most colourful platter.

Important Tips

  • In Ahmedabad there are plenty of Garba venues. The most popular amongst them are the Rajpath Club and Karnavati Club.
  • In the old city, Manek Chowk, Bhadra Fort and Teen Darwaja are places where majority of Sheri Garba events are held. These events are not organised on a mass scale but the fervor of the Garba is at its zenith here.
  • Accommodation is easily available for all budgets. However, it is advisable to book a week in advance during the Navratri.
  • While visiting the city, remember to try the traditional Gujarati thali.
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