As Navratri comes to an end, so does the colourful, dazzling lights and the sounds of Garba clapping and dhol. However, Navratri is a precursor to the festive season in India because just after Navratri, we have other festivals like Eid, Diwali, Bhaidoj, Govardhan, Christmas etc. A celebration of nine nights, it is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals in the Indian subcontinent and is dedicated to honouring the Goddess Durga or Maa Shakti who symbolises power and purity. When you think of Navratri, the vibrant images of Garba and Dandiya dance conjure up. However, this festival isn’t limited to vibrant Gujarat. India’s unity in diversity is best reflected through the celebration of nine nights.
How Navratri is celebrated in India
From Garba dance to Durga Puja rituals, the festival of Navratri is celebrated in different ways across India, representing diverse traditions, customs and flavours of each region. Still, the overarching theme of Navratri remains the same – victory of evil over good. The festival is also a primary crop season cultural event.
In the east and north-east of India, Navratri is celebrated as Durga Puja, signifying the victory of Goddess Durga over demon Mahishasura. In the North, Navratri is synonymous with ‘Ram Leela’ performances and the burning of effigies of Ravana, showing Lord Ram’s victory over Ravana. The final day of Navratri in North India is called Dussehra and in the East, Vijay Dashami. In the south, the festival celebrates the victory of different goddesses, of Rama or Saraswati.
Navratri Celebration in Gujarat
While the whole of India celebrates Navratri but nothing beats the fervour and grandeur of Gujarat during the nine-day celebrations. One of the favourite festivals of Gujaratis, it tick-marks both the boxes – devotion and entertainment. As the festival starts, nine days fasting and worshipping Maa Shakti is observed during the day. In the evening, an earthen pot called “Garbhi” is lighted; and women dance in a circle and perform arti around it. The lighting of the earthen pot and moving in a circle signifies fertility and life cycle. As the night befalls, both men and women enjoy the Garba and Dandiya Raas, wearing their best traditional dresses. Experiencing Gujarat during the Navratri festival is one of the most colourful encounters one can ever have; it can bring anything to life.
If you are planning to visit Gujarat, here is your complete Navratri Garba Guide:
Best places for Garba and Dandiya in Gujarat
United Way Garba, Vadodara:
Begin your journey from the cultural capital of Gujarat, Vadodara. There can’t be a better venue than the United Way of Garba, which is one of the renowned Ras Garba events in the country. Over 30,000 people revel in Garba celebrations every night for nine nights. The cheerfulness of the crowd at this event is so contagious and wide-spread that even the most famous celebrities cannot resist.
Besides the merrymaking and following the traditions, the event has a social side too. The event donates the collected money to 140 charitable organisations around the state. From good food to dance competitions, the venue is a one-stop destination for dance, dine and everything in between. For safety and to avoid unsolicited elements, the organisation has kept an entrance fee of 3500/male and 700/female for nine nights. Anyone from 12 years old to over 80 years is welcomed here.
Other venues in Vadodra: Head to Fine arts Faculty Garba ground where they create the authentic Garba of ancient Gujarat. Another option is visiting the Maa Shakti Garba for groovy music, amazing playlist, mesmerising ambience, and euphoria. The MS University for its laid-back environs and a signature “no taali” (no clapping) garba. Young parents with kids would love Shishu Sanskrutik Garba.
GMDC, Ahmedabad: Not far behind is Ahmedabad that attracts a huge crowd and many celebrities, who dance their heart out on the tunes of folk music perfectly matched with modern-day songs. A must-attend event in Ahmedabad during this time is the Vibrant Gujarat Navaratri festival organised at the GMDC Ground every year by Gujarat Tourism. The entry here is free.
Other venues in Ahmedabad: Unlike the usual nine-day celebrations, the celebration in the Friends Garba only last for the last two days but those two days are filled with modern funky Garba music, making it the ‘it’ place for the youngsters. Other local clubs you could visit are Rajpath, Karnavati, YMCA and Gulmohar Greens.
Other destinations And, if you are looking for more destinations then go to Somnath, Rajkot or Surat.
The Navaratri Mahotsav at Somnath Mahadev Temple in Somnath is highly underrated. As soon as the evening prayers finish, the atmosphere of the place suddenly comes to life with bright, colourful lights everywhere, stalls serving mouth-watering authentic Gujarati food, and people dressed in traditional wear swaying to the tunes of folk songs.
Surat, the city renowned for several nicknames such as “diamond city,” textile city,” silk city,” puts together a great show during Navratri. The best go-to venue is Surat international exhibition and convention center where celebs can be spotted quite often.
In Rajkot, the events held by the Leo-Pioneer Group and Race Course Club are much-loved by not just locals and tourists, even celebrities. Exceptional quality singing and dancing can be seen here.
Tips for a successful Navratri
- Nonstop Garba and Dandiya dance can leave anyone breathless. Add to that, Gujarat’s hot and humid weather along with a large crowd present in the state during the festival. That’s a recipe of dehydration, right? But it can be avoided if you stay hydrated and carry a water bottle with you always.
- Catch up on your sleep as the Navratri celebrations usually last until midnight or beyond
- Festivals are incomplete without relishing the local dishes. Must-try delectable Gujarati dishes like Dhokla, Khandvi, Gathiya among others.
- Getting Garba passes, especially to famous venues like United Way Garba in Vadodra, is both challenging as well expensive. So, buy them well in advance to avoid last-minute hassles.
- Navratri celebrations are incomplete if you are not dressed up for the occasion. Most venues allow you only when you are dressed right – women in Ghagra Cholis and men in Kurta Pyjamas and Dhotis. So, do your shopping well in time and give comfort priority over style.
Shopping for the perfect Navratri look
Garba nights are not just about perfecting the elegant garba moves but also dressing up in style. In fact, many people plan their different traditional looks for all the nine nights. Even the venues promote dressing up by hosting competitions for the best-dressed participants during these fests. Therefore, shopping takes centre stage before the festival begins. Here are the top markets for traditional Garba wear shopping.
- Ahmedabad: Looking for a great looking dress at a great bargain? Head to the Law Garden market. Here in less than two thousand rupees, you can create your Graba-ready look. Don’t forget to buy the matching oxidised jewellery and other accessories to complete your look.
- Vadodra: The bargain-hungry shoppers should head to the heritage corner of the city – Nava Bazar for women and Mangal Bazaar for men shopping.
Must-try food experiences during Navratri
- Manek Chowk, Ahmedabad: Don’t leave Ahmedabad without visiting this bustling city square set amidst historical buildings of the old city. In the morning, it is a vegetable market, a jewellery market in the noon and the street food market at night. Must-try food items are Pav-Bhaji, Mirchi Wada, Fresh Green Variyari, flavourful Tava Pulav and Fusion Foods like Amdavadi Special Sandwiches and Chinese Bhel. After the delicious savouries, satiate your sweet craving with Kulfi, Falooda and Ice-Creams or the Chocolate Sandwiches.
- MG House: For an authentic and sumptuous Gujarati Thali experience in an old Haveli
- Vishalla, Ahmedabad: For a rustic, homely Gujarati vibe, head to Vishalla where you’ll sit on the mud floors to relish the fresh and wholesome Gujarati staples like a digestive amla lemonade to classics like bajri na rotla.
- Oshwal, Ahmedabad: Try its hot jalebis, delicious fafda and the papaya chutney they prepare in-house.
- Shree Jagdish Farsan, Vadodara: For authentic Gujarati farsan (light snacks and tasty bites) – from khaman dhokla and gathiya to bhakarwadi and crispy sev, you will be spoiled for choice.
I hope this Navratri Garba Guide helps you plan a fun-filled trip to Gujarat during its festive best.
For more details on how to best experience Navratri Garba at its best, check out – What happens during Navratri in Gujarat.
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I was hosted by Gujarat Tourism. However, everything expressed above is based on my personal experience. Images used are either shot by me or provided by the destination. Please do not copy anything without written permission.
I’ve never heard of Navratri but it looks like such a wonderful and colourful festival. There seems to be so much good energy there it’s even coming through in your photos. The food looks pretty good too. Is this something that’s open to everyone?
The Navratri festival looks like a fun celebration with colour and lights. I am not sure I could survive nine nights. Even if I would want to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Good to know that Gujarat is the place to go for the Navratri celebrations. And that I would need to buy tickets well in advance. And spend some time picking out just the right outfit.
This festival looks amazing and stunningly beautiful! Would love to check out Navratri but I have to admit, on the first photo of the post, what has that man got on his head? He is crazy!
We love India! Maybe we have to plan visit during the festival. Your desription is nice and deep. Thanks for this! Interesting post.
Wow! This is really interesting. I am amazed by how many people participate in the Garba celebrations. It is just so festive and fun. I would love to join someday. Love that they put more meaning to it by donating to charitable institutions.
Just reading this post was an assault of the senses. I can only imagine the vibrancy and energy of actually attending Navratri in Gujarat. The food looks amazing and I love the outfits – so gorgeous and colourful! If I am ever in India for Navratri, I will make sure to be in Gujarat!
Thank you for this glimpse into Navratri in Gujarat. The festival looks incredible, and I love the community and the charitable elements. The dances look incredible, and I can see myself wanting to be a part of it all– even though crowds tend to make me nervous. It’s all too intriguing not to want to see it!
Coming from Malaysia, I’m already familiar with 2 Hindu celebrations – Diwali & Thaipusam, which I find to be really colourful and always make me want to click on my camera almost non-stop. Now, I’ve just found out about the third one and it seems that Navratri is just as colourful if not more. Would certainly consider making a trip to Gujarat even it’s just for this alone!
Nine days of celebration, I think I would be like a walking dead after two days!😂
Navratri Garba sounds like THE festival that nobody should miss and I can imagine how busy Gujarat must be during that time of the year! I can imagine the excitement of the participants the days before the festival. Going to the market choosing the best and suitable outfits for the festival! Must be a very unique experience and especially for foreigner visitor who has nothing similar in their own country!
I loved reading your post as I can relate each and every line with me and how we used to prepare for Garba during my childhood when I was living in Vadodara. United Way Passes are really tough to get and it is good that you suggested to acquire them in advance. Garba really needs energy due to non stop dance, climate and that too in between lots of crowd. I am drooling over the food suggestions given by you and now I am going out to look out some Gujarati delicacies.
This sounds like an amazing festival. Nine days of celebrating. That’s quite impressive. Though I’ve never heard of the Navratri festival, it sounds like an experience not to be missed. Love the vibrant colors and energy in all your shots.
I had no idea about Navratri before visiting India, and boy was I startled?? It was a really unique and amazing experience for me, as I never been to a particular spot where there were so many people dancing in circles, with so many vibrant and bright colors. I was really impressed by those women who were dancing with those huge props on their heads.
I must admit there are 2 things on my bucket list to experience in India – one Ganpati in Mumbai and Navratri in Gujarat. Yo can’t get bigger and better then these 2. I have heard a lot about it and have some relatives in Gujarat who always boast about it and why not when its so big and everyone is involved. Its a festival that brings together all people in Gujarat and whether you are a Gujarati or not its still special. Was not aware there was such a high demand on passes for some of the special venues. Overall thanks for sharing this great festival and some great tips for my trip as and when it happens. till then keep dancing
Navratri sounds incredible! 30,000 people for nine nights is a lot of gathering. Great tips about water and street foods to try. I would try shopping for my outfits
Navratri seems to be an exciting festival from my photographer’s perspective. It looks that I should go to Gujarat to take the best pictures of the event. Just because it lasts 9 nights make an excellent opportunity to have better pictures each night. I believe that people dressed in traditional wear swaying to the tunes of folk songs would be looking beautiful and vivid in my photographs.
Except for photography, I love to eat good food, and authentic Gujarati farsan is my primary choice based on your post. I hope I will have a chance to visit rich India one day…
Wow! This post is so colourful and vibrant. We have been wanting to visit Gujarat during Navratri from so long but till day has not got the chance to experience it. Charges at the United way festival for males are too high. I didn’t get the reason why there is so huge difference. Your tips for dehydration is on spot. Thanks for sharing the detailed guide from where to buy these beautiful dresses to relish yummy food.