Festivals of Gujarat

Dangs Darbar

Dangs Darbar is the name of the annual fair held every year in Ahwa, the most important town in the Dangs a few days before Holi. The Dangs is one of the most delightful districts of Gujarat and is located high in the Saputara hills, the original home of the adivasis, the tribal population of Gujarat. The name 'Darbar' dates back to the time of the British, when a darbar of Rajas and Naiks of neighbouring area used to assemble there. Today it is called Jamabandi Darbar and the District Collector officiates at it. Thousands of tribal people flock to Ahwa from all over the district, dressed in bright colours sounding the Shehnai and beating their drums. Folk dances, dramas and songs enliven the air during the festival.

Bhavnath Mahadev Mela

The Bhavnath Mahadev Temple, situated at the foot of Mount Girnar in the city of Junagadh is the site of the Bhavnath Mahadev fair held for five days in February, during the festival of Mahashivratri. The Mahapuja of Lord Shiva takes place at midnight in this temple on the 14th day of the dark half of the month of Magh. When the puja (prayer ceremony) starts, Naga Bavas (naked sages) living nearby, move towards the fair seated on elephants, holding flags and blowing conch shells. It is believed that Lord Shiva himself visits the shrine on this occasion. Visitors are served free meals by the organizers. Special stalls sell idols, rosaries or holy beads brought by vendors from Ayodhya and Mathura, utensils of brass and copper, sweets and fruits.


Chitra - Vichitra Mela

This fair, one of the largest, purely Adivasi (tribal) fairs, takes place every year in the village of Gunbhakhari in Sabarkantha district. It is held a fortnight after Holi, the festival of colours. The site of the fair is attractive as the temple overlooks the rivers Sabarmati, Akul and Vyakul. The name of the fair is derived from Chitravirya and Vichitraviraya, the sons of King Shantanu, who are believed to have lived here and been cured of diseases which afflicted them. The fair attracts large numbers of Bhils (tribals) who come from all the surrounding districts using every imaginable form of transport. The Garasis and Bhil tribals dress in their customary colourful costumes. The costume of the men generally consists of a blue shirt, dhoti and a red or saffron turban. Every group that comes to the fair carries its own drum making the atmosphere come alive with the incessant beat of numerous drums. The women sing folk songs, and everyone dances. Over a hundred stalls hold food and drink, and sweets of various kinds.

Dhrang Fair

Around 40 kms from Bhuj, it is known for the samadhi of the famous saint Menkan Dada who served the community with great love and dedication and won their devotion. He was an incarnation of Lakshmanji. A large fair is held on Magh Vad when a large number of Dada's followers from different parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan come to the Samadhi and participate in religious rituals.

Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair


The small hamlet of Tarnetar, about 75 kilometers from Rajkot, is the site for one of Gujarat's most well known annual fairs, held here during the first week of Bhadrapad (September-October). This fair is primarily a 'marriage mart' or 'Swayamvar' for the tribal youth of today who still visit Tarnetar, to find them a suitable bride. The tribal youth elegantly dressed in colourful dhotis, waistcoats and eye-catching turbans come to be chosen by village belles dressed in colourful finery. Like all-important tribal fairs, it is attended by tribes from the adjoining who indulge in dancing, competitive sports and other such forms of entertainment. There are over 300 stalls selling food, refreshments, exhibiting embroidery and cattle shows. The bachelors are usually identified by their large colourful embroidered umbrellas and their distinctive hairstyles.

Vautha Mela

This magnificent fair is held every year at Vautha, where two rivers, the Sabarmati and the Vatrak meet. Like most fair sites in India, this also has both mythological and current religious associations. The Vautha Mela site is 3 square miles in area. Legends hold that Kartik Swami or Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, visited the site. This is why the fair is held during Kartika Purnima, the full moon night of the month of Kartik, corresponding to November. The site, also known as Saptasangam, is at the confluence of seven rivers. The most important Shiva temple here is the temple of Siddhanath. Also, major Donkey trading fair is held.

 Shamlaji Melo

The Shamlaji Melo, also called the Kartik Purnima fair is held in the month of November every year and lasts for about two weeks. It is attended by almost two hundred thousand people from adjoining districts and even from Rajasthan. The pilgrims come in groups, singing devotional songs and carry religious banners to have a darshan (worship)of the deity at the Shamlaji Temple. The Shamlaji Temple is a renowned Vaishnav Shrine and the deity housed here is known by various names included Gadadhar (bearer of the mace) and Shaksi Gopal. The fair is also popular with the tribal people of the area, particularly the Bhils, who revere Shamlaji, the deity they refer to as 'Kalio Bavji', the dark divinity. The temple is of great archaeological significance as it was built in the 11th century. Apart from a darshan of the deity in the temple, the pilgrims consider a bath in the river Meshwo essential.

 Makar Sankranti and Kite Flying Festival

It is celebrated with lots of folk music and dance as well as kite flying. The atmosphere at the festival is electrifying-glass strenghtened threads of the Indian fighter kites are matched against each other in the air, and the kite fighter who cuts the other thread is the victor. Typical food like Undiya, sugar cane juice and local sweets are served to celebrate the day.

 

Dance Festival - Modhera

Resting on a knoll in the village of Modhera, the ruins of the 11th century Sun Temple are an impressive sight. The outer walls of the temple are covered with sculptures in which the figures of Lord Surya, the sun god are prominent. The Sun Temple is the site of an annual festival of Indian classical dances organized by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. The idea is to present classical dance forms in an atmosphere they were originally presented in.

The Kutch Mahotsav

The ‘Kutch Festival’ or the ‘Rann festival’ is celebrated at the time of the Shiv Ratri in February/ March. The centre of the festival is Bhuj in Kutch. It has crafts, fairs and folk dances and music and cultural shows, all organized by the Gujarat Tourism. Tours are also conducted, out to the ruins of Dhola Vera, a city that was once a part of the Indus Valley civilization.

Holi

Essentially a spring festival, It is done by lighting a bonfire of wood and cowdung which is erected in a conical shape over a small pit which is dug at the bottom. Such fires are lit on almost all important cross-sections of roads or in the chowk of the villages. Elders predict the coming monsoon on the basis of the direction in which the flag planted atop falls. Devotees offer coconut to the fire and the youth retrieve them amidst an applause of bystanders.


Dhuleti


The next day after Holi is Dhuleti or Dhuli Padvo. Literally it means throwing of mud, the practice which has given way to throwing of vermilion.

Mahuram

Mahuram is the date when Muslims commemorate the death of Prophet’s grandson, Hussain. The highlight of this Muslim festival is the Tazia procession, which includes acrobats, drummers and singers. Miniature replicas of the martyr’s tomb are carried during the Tazia procession. The Tazia is made of bamboo and tinsel, and are double storied dome structures. There is competition among participants to offer the best Tazia, acrobatics, music and gymnastics. Tazia is a Persian term for weeping, and devout followers beat their chests to express grief. Shia Muslims fast for 10 days during the festival.

Janmashtami


Janmashtami, the day Shri Krishna was born is celebrated with great devotion at the Jagat Mandir a temple built 1400 years ago in Dwarka. Devotees throng in thousands to celebrate this joyous occasion. Rows of lights are lit everywhere, kirtans and bhajans (devotional songs) are sung, sermons are delivered and Krishna is worshipped in his infant form. The temple of Ahmedabad the pilgrim towns of Dakore & Dwarka, the fairs of Bayayali & Dwarka, all throng with devotees of the great Lord Krishna. For celebrating Janmashtami the rituals begin on the previous day with fasting, prayers and celebrations.

Rath Yatra

 The mammoth procession of Rath Yatra at Ahmedabad is the biggest in Gujarat. It starts from the Jagdish Mandir situated in the Jamalpur area of the city early in the morning. There are three separate chariots for the idols of Krishna, Balram and their sister Subhadra. The chariots resemble those at Jagannath Puri and are adorned with garlands. Music bands and Bhajan Mandlis lead the procession. Decorated elephants also move with the procession and gymnasts and acrobats perform astonishing feats. Numerous sadhus of all Vaishnavite sects and devotees join in this procession headed by the Mahant of Jagannath Temple.

Raksha Bandhan


This festival has a three fold significance. It is the day on which Brahmins change their sacred thread, Sisters tie Rakhi to their brothers, and Sea Faring communities worship the sea. Whereas generally the day celebrated by all sections of the Hindu society as a day dedicated to love of sisters for their brothers. The practise of tying the rakhi or the protective knot symbolizing the good wishes, has been an ancient one. Kuntamata of Mahabharat had tied rakhi to her grandson Abhimanyu. Another important historic incident narrates how the queen Jhorabai of Mewad summoned the help of Emperor Humayun against the invading forces of Gujarat Sultan by sending him a rakhi. The day is also celebrated as Nariyeli Poonam in the coastal areas of the State. The sea farers worship the sea by offering coconuts and set sail after the monsoon break.

Bhadra Purnima

 The full moon of Bhadrapad is one of the four most important festival days of the year, when farmers and agriculturists come to Ambaji, a place that derives its name from Goddess Ambaji whose shrine is located here. On this occasion, a large fair is organized on full moon days. In the evening, performances of Bhavai, the folk drama of the state is held and Garba programmes are organized. The devout attend readings of the Saptashati, the seven hundred verses in praise of the goddess and visit the temple for a darshan (worship) of her. The Ambaji shrine is the principal shrine of the goddess in Gujarat and its origins are still unknown. The Temple of Ambaji is recognized as one of the original Shakti Pithas (religious texts) where, according to the ancient Scriptures, the heart of the goddess Ambaji fell to earth when her body was dismembered. A triangular Vishwa Yantra, inscribed with figures and the syllable 'Shree' in the centre, represents the deity.


Navratri

 Navratri, meaning nine nights is a colourful and ancient festival honouring the Mother Goddess- the Divine Shakti who supports the entire universe, protects worshippers, destroys evil and grants boons to her children. The mother goddess has seven well-known forms, including Kali one of her fiercest manifestations. Navratri is held annually in September-October and is celebrated with joy and religious fervour. An interesting feature of Navratri is the Garba and the Dandia-Ras dances. The costumes worn for the dances are traditional and extremely colourful. These dances start very late at night and end in the early hours of the morning.


Dussehra

Dussehra, a ten-day festival in September-October is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil.

Diwali


The last day of the Hindu year of the Vikram era is celebrated as Diwali or festival of lights all over the State. According to the Purana, Lord Vishnu had rescued Goddess Lakshmi from the hold of King Bali on this day. It is also believed that on this day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya. Sathia(Swastik) and Rangoli (making of attractive designs by coloured powder) marks every courtyard with rows and rows of earthen lamps lighting up the surrounding area and giving a special touch of festivity. Merchants worship Goddess Lakshmi and the books of accounts. At night firecrackers of various types are burnt by youngsters. The next day or Kartik Sud 1, the first of the Hindu calendar is celebrated as New Years Day with great solemnity.

Ganesh Chaturthi
 

 
Ganesh is remembered on chauth or chaturthi, the 4th day of every month of the Hindu calendered, but most of all on Ganesh Chaturthi which is celebrated as his birthday. Ladoos are distributed on the day-by tradition ladoos were placed in different corners of the house and eaten before the meal. Milk is offered to idols of lord Ganesh at home and at temples, and Ganesh puja is performed at all temples and hi-house prayer rooms. Fasting, feasting and distribution of sweets offered to Lord Ganesh are important aspects of Ganesh chaturthi rituals in India. No new venture - the inauguration of a company, the opening of a shop, the foundation of a building, entering a new home - is deemed incomplete by Hindus without a Ganesh puja.

   
 
 
 

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