The festive season that started with Ganesh Chaturthi is now at its peak with Navratri. The festivities spread over nine nights douse the country in festive fervour filled with dance, music, food and cheer. And though the longest Indian festival is celebrated in different forms across the country, it takes on a special hue in Gujarat where the night turns into day with festivities.
In Ahmedabad, Navratri mandals are a common sight with garba being played in most housing societies, localities, clubs and hotels. While worship and fasting occupies the day, the evenings come alive when girls dressed in chaniya cholis, flared lehengas, heavy oxidised jewellery and boys dressed in colourful, embroidered kedias and kurtas make way to these mandals. The most spectacular sight unique to Gujarat however is that of Chaniya-choli clad women steering through traffic on their two-wheelers.
In Gujarat there are no shortcuts to dressing up for the fiesta each evening. Unlike Mumbai, kurtis on jeans and spaghettis teamed with flaired cotton ankle-length skirts are non-existent. For Ahmdavadis it’s traditional chaniya-cholis and kedias. Enthusiastic youngsters in fact wear a new outfit on each of the nine days and that too in keeping with the colour code of the day—yellow on ‘Shashti’, parrot green for ‘Ashtami’ (today) and purple for ‘Navami’.
The most evident distinction between Navratri in Mumbai and Ahmedabad however is the dancing style. While Mumbaikars whip out their decorated dandiyas and clank them in rhythm, in Ahmedabad the rhythmic clapping of hands and nimble footwork is what matters during the garba. This dance has a unique rhythm with each person performing solo as well as in a group with dancers weaving concentric circles as they perfect the ‘taalis’ and sway to the drumbeats.
Sheri garba rules in Ahmedabad and even though Bollywood songs and tunes are played original garba songs are most in demand. St Xavier’s College student Amruta Desai makes it a point to join her Amdavadi friends every year during Navratri.
“Mumbai’s dandiya nights pale in front of Gujarati Garba. Instead of a nightclub the action shifts to a dandiya ground that’s about it. Most Mumbaikars just walk in their jeans and kurtis feeling cool, unlike here in Ahmedabad where people go to great lengths to dress up. Also in Mumbai, there’s no devotion and the dancing is too filmi,” she says.
This year the Gujarat Government took an initiative to showcase the festivities during the nine nights festival with Vibrant Gujarat, combining the best of Gujarati handicrafts and food with traditional garba. The festival was inaugurated by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who came dressed in a simple yet elegant crisp silk dhoti and kurta accesorised with an antique Patola dupatta, the cost of which runs into lakh. The fiesta is being held at Gujarat University Grounds in Ahmedabad and is free for everyone. Besides revellers, ambassadors and representatives of 35 countries, who were flown in especially for the festival were a part of the festivities at Vibrant Gujarat.