Inauguration of Navaratri festival at Ahmedabad

Navaratri Celebrations In Gujarat


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I was invited by Gujarat Tourism Department to attend NAVARATRI FESTIVAL 2018 at Ahmadabad and Vadodara. The inauguration event marks the beginning of nine days of  Garba dance where the entire community participates to celebrate feminine power of Goddess Shakti and her nine incarnations.

If you happen to be in Gujarat during Navaratri, the opening ceremony of festival at Ahmedabad and Garba at Vadodara is not to be missed.

The Bangles released the song “Walk Like An Egyptian” in 1986… Had they seen folk dance during Navaratri celebrations, I am sure they would have changed the song to ‘Dance like a Gujarati’. 

One has to see the enthusiasm and energy displayed during the dances to understand the festivities.

Every year nine days of Navaratri are celebrated throughout the country when Goddess Durga is worshipped in various forms. The Bengalis celebrate the Pujo with great pomp and show as do the people of Gujarat.

While some celebrate victory of Lord Rama over the demon King Ravana after a war of ten days; some celebrate it as victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura after a war of ten days. The festival culminates on tenth day celebrated as ‘Vijayadashmi’ to mark the victory of good over evil. 

The grand scale of celebrations at Ahmedabad and Vadodara left me literally jaw-dropping amazed (I haven’t visited West bengal for Durga Puja yet hence can not comment about the celebrations there). The festival inaugurated by Honourable Chief Minister of Gujarat Mr Vijay Rupani set the tone of the celebrations for the next few days.

Mythological stories were presented as dance-drama and folk dances to various devotional songs was just the tip of the grand festivities.

Here is a glimpse of the inauguration event:

UNITED WAY NAVARATRI AT VADODARA

If however you are in Gujarat during Navaratri then a visit to Baroda’s UNITED WAY Garba is a must do. The Gujarat Tourism department hosted me and made it possible for me to attend the grandest Navaratri celebrations.

With as many as 60000 people attending the nine day dance frenzy every year, the UNITED WAY Garba has found itself in Limca and Guiness Book of records. No stampede, no eve-teasing and no intolerant skirmishes….just a happy congregation of dance enthusiasts.

Good to know facts to attend this grand dance:

  • A traditional attire is compulsory if you want to enter the arena.
  • A ten day pass is required to attend the event. The pass fee this year was around Rs 3500 for men and lesser for women. Each day pass is also available at the entrance counter on payment.
  • The passes are also available online about a month or so before the event.
  • Different passes as viewers are also available for the event.
  • Those intending to dance need to have a partner with them.
  • The event begins at 7 pm and ends at midnight.
  • It is better to reach on time for securing entrance pass.

The United Way Garba began in late eighties as a non profit organization and has been supporting various social activities. Besides the upbeat atmosphere that envelopes everyone in its embrace, the Garba ground also becomes a showcase of colorful attires for both men and women; each outdoing the other.

Here are some moments from the United Way Garba that describe the bonhomie and gaiety more than what the words can do:

A woman swirling away to beats at United Way Garba
A woman swirling away to beats at United Way Garba, Alembic Ground , Vadodara
Men dance away the night in colorful clothes too
Men dance away the night in colorful clothes too
Happy dancer
A happy dancer
Enthusiasm galore
Enthusiasm galore

As always the celebrity singer Atul Purohit crooned away the devotional songs while people sweated and danced till midnight. With this being most awaited event of the year, men and women practice almost for a month to get in the groove. And yet not many need to practice at all.

A 25 year old man commented “The moment we step into the circle and music begins, the dance just happens. No need for practice…its just there in me”.

I am one with two left feet and cannot dance even to save my life! but such was the energy and coordination that I couldn’t take my eyes off. Age and gender is no issue and I saw men and women from 60 years to children all mingle in unison to celebrate.

Merry couple
Merry couple
Families enjoying the gathering
Families enjoying the gathering
Men women of all age dance to the devotional songs
Men women of all age dance to the devotional songs

This little girl stole my heart. She was happy to pose for the cameras.

The happiest child?
The happiest child?

Other attractions of Vadodara:

  • Laxmi Vilas Palace of Gaekwad kings is a private property but a visit is allowed. Only mobile photography is allowed on outer grounds and no photography is allowed in the interiors of the palace.
Gaekwad palace
Gaekwad palace
  • Ratri Bazar is a foodie’s delight at Vadodara.
  • Vadodara is connected by air to Mumbai and other major cities.
  • Rail and road transport is also well established.
  • Vadodara is hot and humid for most time of the year but Navaratri festival is not to be missed.

Attractions at Ahmedabad:

Ahmedabad which is well connected by road, railways and air to all major cities of country has quite some heritage worth visiting.

  • Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi,
  • Sarkhej Roza,
  • Jhoolti Minar,
  • Mosques 
  • Narmada River front also has been developed beautifully for evening sojourns.
  • Artist MF Hussain’s Gufa might interest some too.
  • Other places of interest around Ahmedabad are Modhera Sun Temple, Rani Ki Vav, Adalaj Vav.
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