The cultural vivacity and richness of the state of Gujarat can well be captured through the many festivals of Gujarat. The beauty of the state’s age old traditions is showcased most flawlessly through the many festivals celebrated in Gujarat all year round. Almost all the festivals of Gujarat have something unique and special about them. Some of the top-notch ceremonies/rituals of Gujarat that enjoy global fame include dahi handi breaking ceremony, Dhol beating and the very authentic and shimmering garba dance performances. A festival of Gujarat is in fact incomplete without these above mentioned very traditional, signature rituals from the state of Gujarat. Some of the top festivals of Gujarat may be listed as follows-
Navratri is a renowned festival of Gujarat celebrated around the months of October/November with immense pomp and grandeur. The fest continues for nine nights and is an invocation of MA Shakti commonly referred to as Mata Rani. Dandiya nights, garba songs, folk music, competitions, exhibitions, free flow of mouthwatering foods, large crowds dressed in their best garbs and fineries and an overall spirit of carnival make Navratri a one-of-a-kind festival in Gujarat.
The Rann Utsav has the famed Rann of Kutch as its locale. The Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited organizes the Utsav/fest each year around the months; February-March and the purpose remains to promote tourism in Gujarat’s Kutch region. A six day fest held on the Rann makes the barren, deserted Rann come alive with all sorts of exciting sights and sounds. Craft stalls, dance performances, folk music and songs, food stalls etc dot the Utsav ground making the Rann Utsav, a great Mahotsav indeed.
On the occasion of Mahashivratri that falls in the February month, the Bhavnath Mahadev fair is held. The Bhavnath Mahadev temple standing at the base of Girnar hills in Gujarat’s Junagadh city serves as the locale for the Bhavnath Mahadev fair. The fest features numerous colorful events. One of the interesting rituals of the fair is the procession undertaken by the Nanga Sanyasis seated on elephant back and blowing conch shells plus waving flags. The procession commences on the day of Maha Shiv puja and moves towards the fair ground. As per common beliefs, lord Shiva too participates in the Bhavnath Mahadev fair in disguise.
Vautha Fair is an important festival of Gujarat celebrated each year at Vautha; the site of confluence of Rivers Vatrak and Sabarmati. The fair is believed to be one of Gujarat’s most magnificent fairs. As per mythology, Lord Kartikeya had visited this location once upon a time. The fair continues for about 2-3 days; is held in November on the occasion of Kartik Poornima. Animal trading is one of the most notable activities taking place in the fair.
Modhera Dance festival is a world famed cultural show held at the famed Modhera Sun temple in the month of January and third week of the same each year. Various Indian classical dance forms are presented most aesthetically on the occasion of this festival. The temple set up offers the most apt environ for the rendition of the classical dances.
The kite festival of Gujarat is indeed a sight to behold. Each year on the day of Makar Sankranti; i.e. around January 14th, several colorful and uniquely shaped kites challenge the gravity by soaring high up in the air and dotting the skyline. The festival is also differently referred to as Uttarayan. Kites high up on the air battle with each other and the air around resound to triumphant cries of joy. People don special traditional attires and savor special foods on this day.
Bhadra Purnima Fair
This three-day fair of Bhadra Purnima is held in September each year. The Ambaji temple serves as the venue for this fair. On the purnima day or Bhadrapada full moon day this amazing fair of Gujarat is held.
Madhav Rai Fair
Madhavrai fair also referred to as Madhavpur is celebrated in vicinity to Porbandar to commemorate the divine wedding of Lord Krishna and Devi Rukmini. The fest is held in the Hindu month of Chaitra; i.e. around months March-April.
Tarnetar Fair is differently referred to as Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair and calls forth a huge crowd of tribals all gathering at Tarnetar. This fair is an interesting one as match making takes place among the young boys and girls visiting the fair. Thus a tribal boy of Gujarat would visit this fair in hope of meeting his prospective bride. According to folklore Draupadi of epic Mahabharata had selected Arjuna as her husband through a Swayamvara held at this place which was known as pPanchalPradesh in the ancient era. The fairground houses more than 300 stalls selling a plethora of goods, foods etc. folk music and dance shows will make you groove to the amazing beats and rhythm. Cattle shows, embroidery exhibitions, merry-go-round rides, competitive sports are the other attractions of the Tarnetar fair.
The temple of Shamlaji is located on the banks of River Meshvo and is built completely of white sandstone. The annual fair takes place within the temple premises which is also one of the most sacred pilgrimage centres. The large annual fair which takes place on the eve of Kartik Sud during 15th October, is a huge and magnificent sight to behold. People visit this place to bathe in the holy water and offer their prayers. There are several items which are sold during this fair like silver ware, clothes, Metalware among other household items.
Commonly known as Uttarayan the colorful festival of Makar Sankranti is observed throughout the subcontinent. In the state of Gujarat this festival witnesses a spectacular display of colorful kites in the wide open skies. In the city of Ahmedabad the Patang bazaar comes to life as early as November. On the day of the festival kite flyers gather on the roof and no roof remains empty. The entire atmosphere is encapsulated in regular and pulsating cheers of the people flying these kites.
This colorful festival is one of the most awaited annual festivals in Gujarat along with the other parts of the subcontinent. it is majorly celebrated in full enthusiasm in four of the most important places including Jagannath, which is located in Ahmedabad. The main highlight of this festival is a rich cultural procession which is led by an elegant chariot. This grand procession features three separate chariots which are dedicated to Lord Krishna, Balarama and their sister Subhadra.
Popularly known as ‘Krishna Jayanti’ this day is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna. His birth is celebrated by decorating Krishna idols and temples with great fun and vigor. People of Gujarat treat this festival as one of the grandest event where all the females treat the idol of Lord Krishna as their own child. Different sweet dishes and Prasadam are prepared with an aim of honoring the almighty lord. Women of the common household observe fasting for the entire day and eat food which has been prepared 2 days in advance.
Chitra Vichitra Mela
This Adivasi fair pursue to all aspects of Indian civilization and culture. This festival kick starts during the eve of new moon when the women of the city gather together by the river and mourn for their dead relatives throughout the night. The entire fair is a generous representation of eclectic colors and dazzling procedures. People douse themselves in their cultural attire complete with a saffron colored turban and Ghaghras while covering them entirely in heavy jewellery. The non stop beating of the drums and the continuous singing of folk songs fill the entire air in deep enthusiasm.
Every year, during the month of September, the stark white salt desert of Kutch comes to life with the oncoming of the famous Ravechi fair. This festival draws a large number of crowds who are on a Hindu pilgrimage and gather from different parts of the world as one. This fair involves color filled cultural dances, folk songs performances and representation of traditional life in Gujarat. Panning for duration of 2 days Ravechi fair showcases a wonderful life of Gujarati locals. There is also an art workshop and exhibition which successfully showcases the core nature of the Gujarati tradition.
This tribal festival is celebrated with great pomp and show in mostly the tribal regions of Gujarat. Conducted after the eve of Holi this is a two days event where numerous tourists from in and around the subcontinent visit Gujarat to witness it. This fair is a harvesting festival and during this time people dance in rhythm and celebrate the time with great fun. Numerous artists and musicians flock together as one to this state and showcase their talents here. The performers paint their bodies in attractive colors and unique designs which are made from ash and rice and also create a fun human pyramid.