INDIALINE
Complete India Travel Guide

"Gujarat is generally termed as the 'Land of Festivals and Fairs' and has almost 3,500 festivals, which are being celebrated in different parts of the state every year. The festivals and fairs of Gujarat revolve around an occasion such as the turn of a season, the time for harvesting a golden field, or a religious event from India's extensive and rich mythological traditions."
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Fairs and Festivals

International Kite Festival

The International Kite Festival is always held at Ahmedabad on January 14, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. It is a joyous day, with a bright sun, clear skies and breezes strong enough to lift innumerable kites aloft. It is in fact a celebration to mark the end of winter, when the heat of summer is still to come. Kites are flown all over Gujarat, and Ahmedabad and Baroda become cities of kite-flyers.The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are thrown open! The temples are thronged with visitors and alms are distributed freely.

The excitement does not end with nightfall, which is the time for illuminated box kites, often in a series strung on one line, to be launched into the sky. Called "tukkals", they add a touch of splendour to the dark sky. Today, an International Kite Festival is held at Ahmedabad, which draws visitors from all over the world. The visitor is naturally curious to learn more about kites, and his curiosity can be satisfied at the Museum, which presents briefly and colourfully, the history of kites. For instance, we learn that in 200 B.C. Huan Thang of China flew a kite at night to overawe the army of the Han dynasty. From 100 B.C. to A.D. 500, kites were used for sending signals and to measure the distance of enemy camps. By A.D. 930, the Japanese mention "Shiroshi", meaning paper bird, for the first time. Between A.D. 960 and 1126, kite-flying become a popular sport in China. The 9th day of the 9th month was a day when kites were flown to banish evil. In Indian literature, kites were mentioned for the first time in " Madhumati" by Manzan, and were called "patang", which is the word still used today.

Kutch Mahotsava

Like so many other regions of Gujarat, Kutch has its own distinctive character. It is, in fact, a peninsula, lying between the Sir river, the Sir Creek and the Great Rann of Kuteh on the north-west, and the Gulf of Kuteh on the east. The country is somewhat bare and wild, with some cultivated fields near the villages. It has a remarkably heterogenous population, who belong to 18 different tribes, each with its own language and culture. Yet Kutch, with its colourful people, historic towns, and remarkable handicrafts, has much of interest to offer visitors.

The Tourism Corporation of Gujarat, Ltd., (TCGL), organised an unusual tour of Kutch, in response to the request of many who wished to visit an area quite different from urban India. This tour was called a mahotsava, or great festival, because of the great variety of sights and scenes that are offered to visitors. The mahotsava consists of a six-day tour of Kutch, in which all requirements of the visitors are taken care of.

Bhuj, Lakhpat, Narayan Sarovar, Koteshwar, Bhadreshwar, Anjar, Mandvi, Dhola Veera, Dhrang are the place covered.

The Kutch Mahotsava is usually organised during February and March each year.

Navratri

Navratri, meaning `nine nights`, is an ancient and colourful festival. It honours the one Divine Shakti or Force which supports the entire universe, and is personified as the Mother Goddess.

Another interesting feature of Navratri is the garba. a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a garbo , filled with water. A betel nut and a silver coin are placed within the pot, called a kumbh, on top of which a coconut has also been placed. As the dancers whirl around the pot, a singer and a drummer provide the musical accompaniment. The participants clap in a steady rhythm. Nowadays, loudspeakers are used to enhance the sound which grows to a crescendo. The dance usually starts slowly. It gets faster and faster as the music too gets more rapid, until the dance abruptly comes to a halt.

Another dance which is also a feature of Navaratri is the dandia-ras or `stick` dance, in which men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or dandias. As they whirl to the intoxicating rhythm of the dance, men and women strike the dandias together, adding to the joyous atmosphere. So popular are the garba and the dandia-ras that competitions are held to assess the quality of the dancing. Prizes are given to those judged to be the best. The costumes worn for the dances are traditional and alive with colour. The dances usually commence late in the night and continue until early morning, testifying to their great popularity.

Trinetreshwer Mahadev Fair, Tarnetar

There are many fairs in Gujarat where numerous tribal people-gather on special occasions to participate in the various activities that take place at the fair, whether these are religious or secular, and to enjoy themselves thoroughly. The Trinetreshwer Mahadev Fair at Tarnetar, near the industrial town of Thangadh, Saurashtra, is one such fair. It is believed that the fair has been held on this ancient site since antiquity. The fair is linked with the story of Draupadi`s swayamvar and it is said that it was at this place that the great archer Arjuna performed the difficult task that won him his bride. A pole was erected in the centre of the kund and a fish was kept rotating at the top of the pole, at top speed The contestant was supposed to climb up, balance himself with one foot on each of the two scales suspended there and looking at the reflection of the fish in the kund, pierce its eye with an arrow.

Matchmaking at Tarnetar today

Today`s tribal youths also visit Tarnetar, as it is usually called, to find a suitable match, although they do not have to emulate Arjuna`s remarkable feat. Elegantly dressed in colourful dhotis, waistcoat and headcloth twisted at an angle on their heads, they hold large colourful embroidered umbrellas which indeed have become emblems of the fair. The umbrellas, embroidered by them for over a year, and their hair styles, reveal their bachelor status. It is not surprising that, before the fair is over, they usuually meet the lady of their choice! Tarnetar is one of the most important matchmaking melas. Its associations with the Mahabharat are underlined by the fact that the area is known as Panchal Pradesh the land of the Panchal clan, to which Draupadi belonged. The sand here is reddish in colour. This too is supposed to have been characteristic of Draupadi`s homeland.

The Shiva Temple at Tarnetar

As this is one of the most important fairs of Gujarat`s Saurashtra region, the Tarnetar fair, as it is usually called, is attended by at least 50,000 people. The participants are tribal people belonging to various groups, such as the Koli, Bharwad, Rabari, Khant, Kanbi, Kathi, Charan, and other castes. In recent years, visitors travel there from places as far afield as Ahmedabad. Even foreigners visit Tarnetar in growing numbers, due to its unique character.

Bhadra Purnima, Ambaji

The shrine of the Goddess Ambaji located in the village bearng her name, lies at the foothills of the Aravalli mountain range. It is the principal shrine of the goddess in Gujarat and its origins are lost in the mists of time. The temple of Ambaji is recognised as one of the original Shakti pithas where, according the ancient scriptures written about the goddess, the heart of the Goddess Ambaji fell to earth, when her body was dismembered. It is said that the tonsorial ceremony of Shri Krishna was performed at Ambaji!

Bhadra Purnima Fair

On full moon days there is a virtual festival at Ambaji, but the full moon of Bhadrapad is one of the four most important festival days of the year, when agriculturists go to the temple in their thousands, along with members of the general public. There is a large fair on this occasion, while in the evening performances of Bhavai are held, and garba programmes are organised. The devout attend readings of the Saptashati, the seven hundred verses in praise of the goddess, and visit the temple for an auspicous view, darshan, of her.

The Sun Temple, Modhera and the Dance Festival

The ruins of the 11th century Sun Temple at Modhera in North Gujarat, are an impressive sight. It stands on a knoll in the village of Modhera, eighteen miles south of Anhilvad, the former Hindu capital of Gujarat. Modhera was evidently a site of great importance at one time.

Shamlaji Melo, Shamlaji (Kartik Purnima Fair)

Shamlaji, on the Ahmedabad-Delhi road, was once a town of great historical significance. It is 80 kms from Ahmedabad and 32 kms from Himatnagar. The Shamlaji Temple is a renowned Vaishnav shrine, and the deity housed therein is known by various names including Gadadhar - bearer of the mace - and Shaksi Gopal.

The Shamlaji Fair

This is also called the Kartik Pumima Fair and is held during the month of November, every year. It lasts for about two weeks . During this period, nearly 200,000 people of all communities and castes including the Garasias & Bhils, visit the fair from Rajasthan.

Apart from a darshan of the deity in the temple, a bath in the river Meshwo is. Considered essential.

 



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