A celebration that remains on many a bucket list is to partake of the joie de vivre of the Festival of the Nine Nights that each city of Gujarat comes alive with. And experience first-hand the essence, excitement and enthusiasm of Navratri.
The locals will proudly tell you that many, whose work takes them out of not just the state but even the country plan their holidays much in advance to ensure they are part of the festive fervour. For, no one wants to miss out on the fun-filled dance and music revelry that’s an integral part of the festival.
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The Power of Nine
With ‘nava’ (meaning nine) and ‘ratri’ (meaning night), this festival is dedicated to Amba – the powerful Hindu goddess who represents the energy of the universe in her nine different avatars. It is celebrated in the Hindu month of Ashvin (called Asosud in Gujarat) that generally falls in September-October.
There are many kinds of garba including the Pracheen Garba that stresses more on lyrics than music, the Avracheen form that boasts of modern and contemporary elements like loud rhythmic music, the Fusion Garba that’s a mix of folk and filmi forms and music popularized by singers like Phalguni Pathak, the Rap Garba offered by Dewang Patel, Bali Bhrambhatt and Atul Purohit in Vadodara.
Each evening, you see women turning out in exquisitely embroidered, traditional mirror-work filled chaniya cholis and elaborate chunky jewellery and men wearing the charming choini pyjamas with a short kurta called kafni, or kedia, the frock-like jacket.
And no, this celebration is not for youngsters alone but for all age groups. We saw even an 80-year-old dancing enthusiastically for several hours. Keeping in step with a huge crowd is no mean task but the dancers manage. Of course, the bigger utsavs, like the ones in Vadodara, have a minimum age limit and children below 12 are not allowed.
It’s fun walking around in the market places that, despite the crowds and bustling activities, are a delight. Visitors are sure to love these shoppers’ havens, such as the Law Garden Night Market, and be bowled over by the stuff it has to offer.
Foodies have their work cut out too. The Gujarati love for food is legendary. And even for visitors it is difficult to resist the temptation of the smorgasbord on offer to get a taste of the authentic local flavours. From khaman, khichu, pav bhaji to fafda jalebi, chocolate sandwiches and chickoo kulfi, the list is endless.
Also, do keep in mind…
Try and take a local guide along who can take you to the best possible spots to enjoy the Navratri fervour.
While an up and close view of the festivities is essential, also try to find a terrace spot to have a bird’s-eye-view of the proceedings. These make for some excellent photographs.
Keep track of your belongings particularly in the market areas!
To learn shirigarba (street garba), you can contact one of the pols that often conduct classes.