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.