Gujarat’s cultural richness and vivacity shows itself in all the festivals celebrated all across the state. Navratri is one such festival that aptly galvanizes the natives of Gujarat into a state of euphoria and celebration. The festival continues for ‘Nine nights’ and features a free flow of devotion and ecstasy when millions of uniquely dressed devotees gather to pay their tribute to Mata Ambe; a manifestation of Goddess Adya Shakti and participate in the twirling & swirling dance moves of the famed Ras Garba/Dandiya Raas. Navaratri Festivals are celebrated everywhere in our country but the panache with which it is celebrated in Gujarat is simply matchless.
Gujarat Navratri Rituals
Navratri in Gujarat is indeed a grandiose celebration and involves the invocation of Mata Shakti commonly referred to as Mata Rani. The festival is celebrated for nine nights during which the people of Gujarat follow several customs/rituals which may be listed as follows-
1. On each night of the ‘Navratri’ festival the natives at the various cities and villages of Gujarat gather at their neighborhood to perform puja in honor of one of the 9 ma Shakti forms. Each night of the Navratri actually symbolizes one specific form of Goddess Shakti and that particular form is worshipped on the night to which it belongs. Also, as per traditions the nine nights of Navaratri are segregated into groups of three. The first three nights are dedicated to goddess Durga, the second group of three nights is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi and the third group of three group of three nights are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati.
2. During the times of Navaratri it is also a tradition in the state to pay tribute to monsoon harvest and fertility by setting up a mound-like structure with fresh soil into which food grains are painstakingly sown. This mound of soil is nurtured and watered regularly for all the nine days.
3. Every evening aarti is performed before the goddess and a typical earthen pot called Garbi with many diyas is used for the purpose.
4. Post puja people indulge in dance and music. The very rhythmic and graceful garba dance or dandiya garba is performed where performers move in a circular pattern and show highly synchronized moves. They carry small sticks known by the name of ‘dandiya’ which are used as dancing aids during the garba performances.
5. Both acoustic music and amplified music systems accompany the garba dance moves.
6. Performers don their best attires made out silk, sequin, glass works, appliqué, and gold threads and so the entire sights and sounds of the festival are characterized by lots of bling.
7. Stages are erected everywhere. Various types of cultural programs are held night long.
8. Spectacles like dancing with lit flames or with swords is a common thing during the Navratri celebrations at Gujarat.
9. The tenth day; i.e. the day of Vijayadashami is considered an auspicious day for purchasing new vehicles. Since that is the last phase of Navaratri celebrations people are in a mood to rest after their frenzied involvement in the festivities. They’ll wake up late from sleep on that day and will engorge on lots of traditional snacks like jalebis and fafdas.
The History behind Navratri
The history behind Navratri is closely associated with mythical tales. As per myths Demon Mahisasur had received a boon from Agni devta that no weapon will be able to destroy him ever and that had actually made the demon immortal. He became too proud and powerful and started terrorizing everyone in heaven and earth. The panicked devtas and deities then went to lord Shiva with an appeal to rescue them from the prowess of Mahisasur. Lord Shiva in association with Lord Brahma and lord Vishnu created the female Shakti, Ma Adhya Shakti who then fought with Mahisasur for 9 continuous nights and days. On day ten she triumphed over the demon by beheading him and in that way the evils associated with mahisasur came to an end.
The best places to enjoy Navratri in Gujarat
Khodiyar Mandir; Bhavnagar, Chamunda mata mandir; Chotila, Ashapura mata-no-Madh; Kutch are some of the most notable Gujarat temples where the most exotic manifestations of the Navratri festival can be seen.