Navratri. This is one of those festivals that I feel to have a mystic connection with. I wish I could ever express my deepest feeling to narrate what this festival means to me. Indeed, this festival has a special place in the heart of every Gujarati. I am not a Gujarati but for me, it has meaning that connects with my personality and character. The reason being a Mata Rani Bhakt (if you connect a spiritual aspect) and the other is that I often get engrossed in this ever enchanting environment and the enigmatic impact it leaves on me.
Pure energy, sheer positivity, vividity of colors, and above all the fragrances that only I can smell. Besides anything else, Dandiya or Garba (or whatever way you pronounce) has different connotations. It is because the night long dance throws all negative vibes out and reincarnates the body, the mind, and the soul.
I do not have answers to your where, how, and where, but the connection became natural to me in last few years. Every year this festival reveals in me some hidden and unknown desires to pay a visit to Gujarat during Navratri. Each time, I visit durga Pooja pandal or a Dandiya night, it evoke the great sense of desire to be in the center of musical action, right in the heartland of Gujarat. To each her own, I crave for the authenticity, the splash of colors, the happy faces, the mouth relishing cuisines, and the traditional Navratri Pooja.
The festival of Navratri in Gujarat is a perfect blend of trend and tradition. The essence of the festival of nine nights lies in the folk dance of Gujarat, Garba. It is said that during Navratri, a lamp is kept in an earthen pot with multiple holes as a symbol of ‘MatruShakti’ (mother energy) and is worshipped. Each day begins with Aarti of nine forms of Goddess Shakti. Though it would not be wrong to say that the whole world dances to the beats of Garba, nowhere else this grand event is celebrated with much zeal, enthusiasm, art, and aplomb except in Gujarat.
Today’s Garba has changed as much as Gujarat in past decade. Each street has its own tradition, stories, and hues, which are unique in it own sense. The whole of Gujarat gets absorbed in energy and art that is rare to witness. Though Navratri is celebrated all over Gujarat, few places would definitely score high over others for being exceptional in their own rights for representing modern yet culturally imbibed Gujarati society.
Ahmedabad observes Navratri with amazing grace and grandeur. It is Gujarat’s most important city and a near perfect mix of modernity and culture. During Navratri, Amdavdi’s dance and sway to the mystic tunes of Garba immersed in devotion. Likewise, the raw energy and prowess of Surat take your breathes away. Vadodara, while, enjoys sophisticated and subtle enthusiasm, Rajkot enlivens the traditional art of Dandia and Garbis. These nine nights gives you a sense of having a life of sheer divinity, purity, and wholesomeness.
A fascinating thing during Navratri is the unbeatable spirit of ‘Khelaiyas’ (Garba Players). The police restriction of 12 AM doesn’t stop them from enjoying all night long. People move from party plots to ‘Sheri Garba’ (street garba) or visit Manekchowk – a street food haven that is open till wee hours every night, to have the most delicious dishes like Pav Bhaji, Gwalia Dosa, Chocolate sandwich or Malai kulfi.
The garba fans start traditional dress and ornament shopping preparations months ahead of the festival. Every year, Navratri brings in innovation in music, choreography, costumes and is enthralled with the beauty of tradition. During Navratri, the city of Ahmedabad looks colorful and magical. The true essence of life is that we should celebrate each moment with joy and excitement and Navratri teaches us that.
Wanna play with me next year? Let me know.
Keep Traveling, Keep Exploring.