Discovering the wonderful festivals of Gujarat
Gujarat is known for its magnificent beaches, stunning Unesco sites, sacred pilgrimage sites, Gandhi’s native region, and the folkloric festivals and fairs held throughout the year that attracts thousands and thousands of visitors. Gujarat people love the dance, art, culture, music and proudly celebrate their ancient customs and traditions every month through events that make this region one of the most joyful and culturally vibrant of India. During our trip to Gujarat, we witnessed two fascinating and engaging folkloric events – the Chitra Vichitra and the very famous Rann Utsav – attended by thousands of local people and a few foreign tourists.
The streets of the cities were completely decorated with dozens and dozens of stalls selling flower necklaces, religious objects, traditional clothes and street food. What struck us the most was the beauty of the women dressed up for the celebration who wore colourful and elegant dresses and decorative silver jewels such as necklaces, bracelets and rings. The traditional clothing of Gujarati women is the Chaniya Choli or Ghagra Choli (an attire with a long skirt) accompanied by the dupatta covering the head and shoulders. The men wore dark clothes, flower necklaces, earrings, and often, to make their eyes more expressive and highlight them, they had a line of black pencil on the upper and lower lids and glitter on the face. Gujarati people had always been hospitable and intrigued by our presence at events, inviting us to share their food and take pictures altogether.
What are the main festivals?
Among the many events that showcase and highlight Gujarat’s ancient traditions and customs, the most popular festivals are the Navrati Festival, the International Kite Festival, and the Rann Utsav, known as the desert festival. You can see the official website of Gujarat Tourism to find out all the festivals and fairs throughout the year.
- Navrati festival
It is a very popular Hindu festival celebrated all over Gujarat (even all over India but in fewer days) in September or October. The Navrati begins on the first day of the Hindu month Ashwin and consists of 9 days of dance and music in honour of the triumph of the Goddess Shakti over evil after a battle of 9 days and 9 nights. The festival also celebrates soil fertility and the harvest at the end of the monsoon season. Usually, the people dances in circles whirling around late into the night and many dancers hold swords or burning flames. Two of the best cities to enjoy the festival are Vadadora, considered the cultural capital of Gujarat, and Rajkot. In 2021, the festival will be celebrated from 7th to 15th October.
- International Kite Festival
Although recently introduced, it is one of the most popular festivals in Gujarat in January (usually January 14th) to celebrate Uttarayan, i.e. the end of winter and the beginning of summer when the sun comes and it’s time to harvest. This folkloric festival brings together kite masters from all over the world to fly their creations and fill the sky from sunrise to sunset with their magnificent kites. For Gujarat people, the flight of kites is a symbolic indication of the change of weather. Some places to enjoy this lively festival are Mandvi beach, Sabarmati waterfront, Ahmedabad, and Rajkot.
- Rann Utsav festival
This wonderful festival is held in the Kutch, a vast saline desert on the border with Pakistan and one of the state’s most ecologically and ethnic districts. The festival, known for its ethnic flavour, lasts almost 3 months (November 1st to February 20th) and celebrates the Kutch region’s uniqueness and rich culture. Every day, there are performances of folk dances (Garba, Hallisaka and Tippani), musical performances, folk shows, cultural events and exhibitions where local crafts and art are exhibited, such as Rabari embroidery, Rogan art, fabrics embroidered with mirrors, ceramics and block printings. The festival begins in the city of Bhuj and extends throughout the region. We suggest not missing it because this region is terrific. The Kutch, in addition to the many ethnic groups, boasts archaeological sites, a vast desert of salt, enchanting beaches to relax, salt flats and lakes with rich birdlife and grasslands where endangered mammals such as the wild ass, the caracal, the wolf and the chinkara gazelle can be spotted.
- Chitra Vichitra Festival
It is celebrated on one day in March or April in Ghunbakhari (Sabarkanta District) and is the largest tribal festival in Gujarat. The festival begins at night with women who gather on the river bank and mourn their dead relatives. The following day, the women wear colourful traditional clothing and heavy silver jewellery while the men wear a blue shirt and a red turban. The streets are festively decorated with hundreds of stalls selling sweets, crafts, flower necklaces, religious objects and street food. The atmosphere is joyful, with singing and dancing throughout the day. Our guide told us that this festival is also an opportunity for youths to find husbands/wives.