Monday, May 14, 2007


Gujarat is situated on the Western Indian coast having a 1,600 kms long Arabian Sea coastline. It stretches from Kutch in the West to Daman in the South and the hilly tract from Aravalli in the East to the Western hills with lush green forests, rivers as well as plains.The State of Gujarat comprises of 25 districts. It lies to the north east of the Gulf of Cambay. On its western and south western boundaries lies the Arabian Sea. To the north west lies the country of Pakistan. Northeast of the state borders with Rajasthan, east of the state borders with the state of Madhya Pradesh. To the southeast is the state of Maharashtra.Gujarat ranks 10th in population and 9th in area among the states of India. It has a colourful profile and an age-old heritage. Its land is fertile, beautiful and prosperous.
State Capital
Gandhi Nagar
Population ('000s in 1991)
Area ('000 sq. km)
Females per 1000 males (1991)
Literacy rate (1991)
Ratio of urban population (1991)
Net Domestic Product (Rs. million at current prices in 1992-93)
Per Capita Income (Rs. at current prices in 1992-93)
Principal Languages
Gujarati,Hindi, Sindhi, Marathi
Gujarat has a long historical and cultural tradition dating back to the days of the Harappan civilization established by relics found at Lothal.Situated on the western part of the Indian sub-continent, Gujarat derives its name 'Gujaratta' meaning the land of Gurjars. The Gurjars passed through the Punjab and settled in some parts of Western India, which came to be known as Gujarat.According to the Hindu epics, Lord Krishna and his elder brother Balarama, evacuated Mathura and established themselves at Kushasthali, now known as Dwarka and started what is known as the Yadava dynasty. Dwarka subsequently became one of the four seats (mathas) set up by Adi Shankaracharya.The Parsees when they fled from Iran in the eighth century first landed at Sanjan on the shores of Gujarat with the holy flame, which still burns in Udwada in Valsad. The Muslim influence left its lasting imprints on the local art and architecture and it came to be known as the Indo-Saracenic style.Among the earliest Europeans in Gujarat were the Portuguese who settled in Diu, a small island off the southern coast of Saurashtra. After that came the British who set up warehouses in Surat in 1612.Gujarat was a part of the erstwhile Mumbai state during the British Rule. But in 1960, the 'Gujarati' population decided to secede from that union, which resulted in the formation of two new states, namely Gujarat and Maharashtra. The new State of Gujarat came into existence on May 01, 1960 because of this bifurcation.Gujarat is the birthplace of many who played an important role in shaping modern India. Prominent among them are Shri Dadabhoy Navroji, the grand old man of the freedom fight, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the architect of a united India and Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Nation. These men carried the torch of national freedom and integration infusing the qualities of tolerance, brotherhood, non-violence and patriotism amongst Indians.Gujarat History - Milestones: 2500 BC.Harappans appeared from Northern India to settle down, and established over a hundred towns and cities. 100 to 500 BC.Yadavas, Krishna's clan, held power over much of Gujarat, with their capital at Dwarka. 200 BC.Political history began with the powerful Mauryan Empire, established by Chandragupta Maurya with its capital at Junagadh, and reached its peak under Emperor Ashoka. 100 AD.Satraps, members of the Saka tribes, gained control over Saurashtra. 388 AD.Guptas, and then Maitrakas, established their capital at Valabhi. 1100 AD.Saurashtra came under sway of the Solanki (Chauhan) dynasty. 1299 AD.Allaudin Khilji conquested and the Muslim rule was established. 1307 AD.Muzaffar Shah's declaration of independence from Delhi marked the foundation of the Sultanate of Gujarat. 1500 AD.Moghul emperor Akbar conquered. 1531 AD.The Portuguese, already settled in Goa, captured Daman and Diu. 1613 AD.The British East India Company set up original Indian headquarters in Surat. 1818 AD.British sovereignty was established. 1960 AD.Mumbai state was split and Gujarat state was created.
Gujarat has given some of the best musicians to India. According to a legend the famous musicians, Baiju Bavra and Tana Riri who saved Tansen from the burning effects of the 'deepak rag' by singing 'Rag Malhar', belong to Gujarat.Narsinh Mehta who wrote the famous bhajan 'Vaishnavajan' was also from Gujarat. It is believed that 'Rag Kedar' when sung by him, brought him communion with Lord Krishna. Gujar Tod, Bilaval and Khambhavati said to be named respectively after Gujarat, Veraval and Cambay are Gujarat's contributions to classical music. In modern times Ustad Faiyazkhan, Maulabux, the 'been' player Rahimkhan and many others belonged to Gujarat.Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, one of the greatest exponents of Indian classical music hailed from Gujarat. Gujaratis have contributed some of the noted treatises on music; these include Dahyalal Shivram's Sangeet Kaladhar and Adityaram Vyas's Sangeetaditya.


The state of Gujarat has been blessed with a rich and vibrant tradition of handicrafts. Handicrafts were originally based on home production for daily use. Each article was made almost entirely by hand. Skilled men and women, whose work was distinguished by their inherent good taste and by the economical use of raw materials, made each article. Handcrafted products were sturdy yet were graced with tremendous visual appeal and have been greatly sought after. Amongst the traditional handicrafts of Gujarat are numerous things that a discerning buyer would wish to admire and acquire. The range of offerings spans a wide array of furniture, jewellery, metalwork items, embroidered garments, colourful linen, leatherwork, beadwork, mirror work, baked clay articles etc. All these are created to reflect the lifestyle, culture and above all the spirit of Gujarat.
Articles of everyday use
Leather bags embellished with motifs of velpatti, laherias, animals and birds in the tradition of what is known as Mochi Bharat. Colorful mojdis, sapats, chappals and chaplas (embroidered footwear), tasseled and embroidered to highlight colour schemes.Chunky white metal, bead, agate and guthni jewellery to complete that traditional look. Embossed white metal ashtrays, paper trays, pen stands and boxes.Artistically embossed white metal copper and brass plant holders from north Gujarat.Copper bells from Jhura in Kutch. Pen stands and desk accessories with traditional inlay work known as Marquetry of Surat.Bangle boxes of gilded brass. Pataras, wooden jewel boxes, covered with ornamental, white metal and brass sheeting.File covers and folders made from a variety of fabrics and embroideries. Telephone index books, spectacle covers, pass books, writing pads, weekly planners. A range of desk utilities, cloth bound in the entire ethnic fabric range.File covers and folders made from a variety of fabrics and embroideries. Telephone index books, spectacle covers, pass books, writing pads, weekly planners. A range of desk utilities, cloth bound in the entire ethnic fabric range.Silver Jewellery is always in great demand with Rajkot and Ahmedabad being centres for silver ornaments. Beadwork is another Gujarati specialty. Motifs and patterns are dictated by the technique of putting two and three beads together. Beadwork objects are used in wall decorations, potholders, etc. The best beadwork is produced by the kathis (tribals). Worked mostly on a white background they use colours that are vibrant with very distinct patterns. Beadwork torans (welcoming friezes) are usually suspended over doorways.


Gujarat offers a wide range of furnishings. From simple and elegant cushion covers to quilts and bedcovers in a wide range of styles. Quilts are another popular handicraft item. They come in a variety of styles from simple geometric designs to more complex patterns. Other utility items like woven and Kalamkari table covers, tablemats and block printed bed land table linen.Totally felted, inlayed namdas and woven dhurries from Kutch. Kharal, a traditional floorspread from Kutch, is woven entirely with camel and goat hair.Ari, embroidered wall hanging and decorative pieces of suff embroidery are done by the Sodha community.


The variety in textiles lies in the differences of raw materials, the combinations of yarns and in the effective use of traditional techniques. Variations in design used by different communities, castes and regions of the state, have further enriched the range.


Mashru, a mixed fabric, woven with a combination of cotton and silk, was essentially for the use of Muslim men as there was a prohibition on them wearing pure silk. Weaving traditions prevalent in Iraq and the Arab countries may have influenced the tradition of mashru.Mashru was woven all over India, though it survives today only in Gujarat. It often combines ikat patterns in stripes, along with woven patterns, through the introduction of extra warp threads, or by the depression of the warp threads, and is woven on a pit loom. Today Patan is one of the most important centres where mashru is woven.


Worn originally by tribes of Gujarat, this fabric is printed in geometric patterns with bold black outlines, in deep earthy colours.

Dhamadka & Ajrakh

The intricate art of printing fabrics using wooden blocks thrives in the riverside town of Jetpur, midway Gondal and Junagadh, and earns valuable foreign exchange along side the more modern screen-printing workshops. Wood is cut and flattened into blocks ranging from around 1 ½ " to 3" thickness, pin pricked with the outline of the design to be transferred to the fabric and finally minutely carved by chiseling. Next, the colours are separated to fill the niches, and the Chhipa or Khatri expertly runs the block along the length and breadth of the fabric.The dyed fabric is then fixed in river Gondali and kept to dry. Kutch also specializes in block printing, and vegetable dyes, paraffin wax resist, patricate-printing material. Bright ajrakh prints are still used though now synthetic dyes and modern techniques have been adopted. Dhamadka are block prints that derive their name from the village of origin, well known for its river water that brightens the colours. A range of contrasting maroons, yellows, blues and reds with patterns generated through tiny dots.


This fabric from Surendranagar is inlayed with thread during weaving to create geometrical patterns and peacock motifs.


The tie-dyed fabrics of Gujarat are perhaps the best produced in India. Also known as Bandhej, it is produced on superfine cotton mulmul, muslin sometimes combined with gold checks and motifs worked in the jamdani technique. The highest intensity of Bandhini dyeing is in Kutch, but some of the best works are from Jamnagar and Saurashtra, on the Southern coast of Gulf of Kutch. The printed portion of the fabric are pinched and pushed into small points and then knotted with 2 or 3 twists of thread. The knotted parts remain uncoloured and the fabric is dyed in the lightest shade first, retied and dyed in the darker colour. The fabric may be tied and dyed several times, depending on the number of shades in the final colour scheme. The price of the bandhini depends not only on the fabric, but also on the number of times it has to be tied and dyed and the intricacy of the design. Bandhini sarees are easily available in all the bazaars and shopping centres of Jamnagar and here you can also find them brocaded with fine gold thread zaris.


Salwars, kurtas, ghaghras, cholis, odhanis, skirts and jackets are some of the garments available. Each of these garments is created from authentic hand block-printed material, imaginatively embellished with appliqué patterns and embroidery, collected from remote villages of Gujarat.


Sarees woven with gold and silver thread known as ganga-jamuna. The borders retain the flowing patterns of old chanderi and paithani sarees, which were a specialty of western India.


Chinese weavers first introduced tanchoi in Surat and the Parsi community used it extensively. They continue to be woven into sarees as well as fabric in silk.

Gharchola and Panetar

These silk sarees from Cambay are first woven with silk and zari threads and then tie-dyed or block printed.

Patola - The queen of Silks

The patola is one of the finest hand-woven sarees produced today. This is a specialty of Patan, and is famous for extremely delicate patterns woven with great precision and clarity. Besides Patan, Surat is acclaimed for velvets with patola patterns. The salvi silk weavers from Maharashtra and Karnataka opted to make Gujarat the home of their renowned patola fabrics. The salvis are said to have arrived in Patan from Maharashtra and Karnataka in the 12th century to make the most of the patronage of the Solanki Rajputs, who then ruled all of Gujarats and parts of South Rajasthan and Malva with the capital at Anahilwad Patan. According to folklore, as many as 700 Patola weavers a company Raja Kumarapala to the palace of Patan, and the ruler himself wore a Patola silk robe on the occasion. After the fall of Solanki dynasty, the Salvis found patronage in the affluent Gujarati merchant, and the patola sarees soon became a status symbol with Gujarati girls and women especially as an important part of stridhan for the departing wedded daughter. The patola of Patan is done in the double ikkat style, which is perhaps the most complicated of all textiles designs in the whole world. Each fabric consists of a series of warp threads and a single weft thread, which binds the warp threads together. Each one of the warp threads is tied and dyed according to the pattern of the saree, such that the knotted portions of the thread do not catch the colours. The result is not only a tremendous richness in colour of the fabric, but that both side of the saree look exactly alike, and can be worn either way. In fact except to an expert, a patola looks like a piece of silk fabric, printed on both sides in the same design. The weaving is done on simple traditional handlooms, and the dyes used are made from vegetable extracts and other natural colours, which are so fast that there is a Gujarati saying that "the patola will tear, but the colour will not fade." A patola saree takes 4 to 6 months to make, depending on how complicated the designs is and if the length is 5 or 6 metres, it can cause from Rs.50, 000/- to over Rs. 100,000/- a piece. Patan produces very intricate patterns worked with precision and clarity, with the characteristic geometric delineation of the design, while maintaining the soft hazy outlines, a natural effect of the technique. In an area called Sadvi Wada you can watch the complex weaving of silk patola saris, once the preferred garment of queens and aristocrats, and now made by just one family.There were four distinct styles in the patolas woven originally in Gujarat by the Salvi community. The double ikat sarees with all over patterns of flowers, parrots, dancing figures and elephants were used by the Jains and Hindus. For the Muslim Vora community special sarees with geometric and floral designs were woven for use during weddings. There were also the sarees woven for the Maharashtrian Brahmins with a plain, dark-coloured body and borders with women and birds, called the Nari Kunj. There was a cloth specially woven for the traditional export markets in the Far East.

Silver and Stone Crafts

Gujarat's other paramount craft is silver and iron works, found nowhere better than in the former princely state of Saurashtra and Kutch where descendants of the original court swordsmiths and jewelers, now make fine beetle nut crackers, copper coated iron bells, knives and cutlery. The brass industry of Jamnagar is one of the largest in India and from Kutch and Rajkot come the famous silver engravings and ornaments that are considered so typical of Gujarat. Anjar is a good place to buy brass and iron utensils, cutlery, knives and scissors. For classic chunky tribal jewellery, you should visit Poshina, enroute from Ahmedabad to Mt. Abu, where silver and imitation silver ornaments can be brought from the tribals and native artisans for very low prices. You can also watch arrows being crafted here, and pick up knives and daggers with beautiful sheaths and hilts.

Wonders in Clay

The state's oldest handicraft is certainly pottery, which achieved great standards of excellence in ancient times. The commonest of art forms, pottery is also one of the most fascinating. With the few turns of the wheel and expert flicks of the hand, village potters mould an ordinary lump of mud into a well proportioned and useful clay utensils, embellished by their wives with paintings and colourful lines. Terracotta toys are another craft of the potters of Kutch, but it is in the Aravallis and Chhota Udepur tribal lands that potters make the famous long necked terracotta figurines of the Gora Dev (tribal horse God), said to protect crops, villages and families from evil spirits, evil intentions and natural calamities. At Poshina, these terracotta horses and elephants cost Rs. 10 to 50 each, and are good decorations for your home and garden, and the Poshinagadh heritage hotel can arrange for you to shop for such tribal artifacts. An entire wall panel of such terra cotta animals can cost Rs. 3000/-. Potter communities also specialise in mud wall paintings, and you could get plaques, inset with mirrors, made for your own house or garden shack from Kutch.


Another handicraft industry that has become synonymous with Southern Gujarat is the lacquered furniture of Sankheda near Vadodara. Wood is rounded with tools and painted with floral and abstract designs in bright shades of gold, silver, maroon, green, vermilion, and brown by using sticks dipped in a coloured mixture of dyes, powdered zinc, lac and resin.The furniture and woodcrafts of Surat, Kutch and Saurashtra are also popular. The artisans of Kutch make wood take on beautiful designs and intricate filigreed appearance of lace. Lacquered furniture similar to that of Sankheda is also made in Mahuva near Bhavnagar, Surat and Kutch. Minakari furniture from Rajkot, now made by only of few families is as attractive as Sankheda furniture and includes low slung chairs, which can replace sitting cross leg on floors, Indian styles and sofa sets, chairs, centre tables and settees. In textile centres like Jetpur, Kutch and Pethapur village of Gandhinagar district, a good by are old wooden blocks used for printing fabrics which can be joined into a table top, decorative screen or a partition or used as door knobs, ornamental pieces or paper weights.


If any one deserves the credit of adding, a touch of exotic colour to the monochromatic desert scapes of the Rann of Kutch and the arid semi desert scrubby grasslands of Banni, it is the embroiderers. Embroidery is Gujarat's quintessential handicraft and many of the artisans are wives of herdsmen, nomads and agriculturists battling for a second income. Techniques vary with the community and region look for the simple needle work but exquisite effects of Bavalia embroidery to the fabulous bright yellow and red Banni embroidery; the embroidery of the Rabari cameleers, reminiscent of their pastoral life style, inlaid with triangular, square and almond shaped mirrors; the geometric and floral motifs of the Ahir community with circular mirrors; the chain stitches and tiny mirrors used by the Jats; the delicate soof embroidery of the Sodha Rajputs around Lakhpat ; the tiny broken mirrors embroidered into fabrics by the Mutwa cameleers; and the exquisite Mukka embroidery of the Hali Putras, Rasipotra and Node herds people.

Gold Embroidery

The history of the zari (gold embroidery) industry of Surat dates back to the Mughal period. Even today Surat remains one of the biggest and most significant zari manufacturing centres of India. The principal types of products are zari threads in gold and silver, embroidery for decorative boarders, shoe uppers, evening bags and accessories. Gold and silver threads are commonly used for weaving the kinkhab.


Dhurries, carpets, blankets and rugs are woven on primitive pitlooms in the villages of Kutch. Wankars dexterously weave designs with their hands while the machine is worked by foot pedals. The result, gorgeous patterns and remarkable colours combinations. Durries can be made from wool, goat hair and cotton. Colourful quilts and camel comparison are also woven traditionally on pitlooms, shuttle looms and other handlooms. Handloom weaving is an important occupation in villages on the Ahmedabad - Bhavnagar highway.


Silver jewellery is always in great demand with Rajkot and Ahmedabad being centres for silver ornaments.Just an hour's drive from Ahmedabad, the artisans of Khambhat (Cambay) continue the craft of stone cutting and bead making, which began in ancient times. Agate is mined in the hills along the Gulf of Khambat. Here they are dried and heated till they fracture regularly, and then cut and reheated with iron oxide. The stone is then chipped and flaked into beads, before grinding, drilling and polishing. The final product is set into ornaments or utensils. Other precious and semi precious stones are also cut and polished in Khambhat. Products range in price from Rs. 15/- for an earring to Rs. 3000/- or more for an entire set.



Originally the Jats were herders who lived in area called Half (Iran). Five hundred years ago they migrated and came to Sind and Kutch in search for new grazing pastures. Some settled there and took up farming, they called themselves Garasia Jats. Others who became herders of cattle were known as Dhanetah Jats, while those choosing to devote themselves to studying the Koran were called Fakirani Jats.


The name Harijan was given by Mahatma Gandhi to the Meghwal people. They are originally from Marwar in Rajasthan but now live all over Kutch. They live in groups outside villages. Masters in weaving wool and cotton, their women do exquisite embroidery and appliqué work. Leather embroidery is another of their specialties.
The Ahir are descendants of Lord Krishna who lived in Gokul Mathura a thousand years ago. Now they are spread over north and northwestern India. There are four main types of Ahir, they are the Prantharia, the Machhoya, the Boureecha and the Sorathia. These communities are mainly of farmers who sell milk and ghee. Some of them have entered other professions like transport and salt manufacture.


The Rabari are a mysterious tribe unlike any other. Their lifestyle has piqued the curiosity of many a researcher. They are nomadic, and spend most of their time wandering with their herds. Their origins have been traced to Afghanistan and parts of Sind. Rabaris can be classified into three groups, Dhabaria, Vagadia and Kachhi. The Rabari women are treated with great respect in their families. They take care of the house; make pieces with beautiful embroidery as well sell these goods while the men spend time in the desert tending to their flocks of sheep and camels.


Gujarat could well be termed the 'Land of Festivals and Fairs' with almost 3,500 of them being celebrated in different parts of the state every year. Like elsewhere in India, the festivals and fairs of Gujarat revolve around an occasion - be it the turn of a season, the time for harvesting a golden field, or a religious event from India's extensive and rich mythological traditions. What's more, these fairs and festivals, governed by the solar and lunar calendars of old world astrology, offer the visitor an excellent opportunity to experience the diverse cultural and religious identity of the people of Gujarat.

Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair (Tarnetar Mela)

The small hamlet of Tarnetar, about 75 kilometres from Rajkot is the site for one of Gujarat's most well known annual fairs, the Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair popularly called the Tarnetar Mela. The Mela (fair) is held for three days in the period between August to September. Like all-important tribal fairs, it is attended by tribes from the adjoining areas of Koli, Bharwad, Rabari, Khant, Kanbi, Kathi, and Charan who indulge in dancing, competitive sports and other such forms of entertainment. There are over 300 stalls selling food, refreshments, exhibiting embroidery and cattle shows.This fair is primarily a 'marriage mart' or 'Swayamvar' for the tribal youth of today who still visit Tarnetar, to find them a suitable bride. The tribal youth elegantly dressed in colourful dhotis, waistcoats and eye-catching turbans come to be chosen by village belles dressed in colourful finery. The bachelors are usually identified by their large colourful embroidered umbrellas and their distinctive hairstyles. These umbrellas, which have become emblems of the fair, are embroidered by the tribal youth for over a year.The fair is held around the Trinetreshwar Temple dedicated to the three-eyed Lord Shiva, built at the beginning of the century. There is a kund (reservoir) here and it is popularly believed that a dip in its waters is as holy as a dip in the sacred River Ganges. The reservoir is also known as papanshu (the destroyer of sins).

Bhavnath Mahadev Mela

The Bhavnath Mahadev Temple, situated at the foot of Mount Girnar in the city of Junagadh is the site of the Bhavnath Mahadev fair held for five days in February, during the festival of Mahashivratri.The Mahapuja of Lord Shiva takes place at midnight in this temple on the 14th day of the dark half of the month of Magh. When the puja (prayer ceremony) starts, Naga Bavas (naked sages) living nearby, move towards the fair seated on elephants, holding flags and blowing conch shells. It is firmly believed that Lord Shiva himself visits the shrine on this occasion.Girnar is said to be the abode of the nine Nathas (lord and protector), who are immortal and eighty-four Siddhas (spiritually elevated souls), all of whom also visit the temple in their invisible spiritual bodies.Visitors are served free meals by the organizers. Special stalls sell idols, rosaries or holy beads brought by vendors from Ayodhya and Mathura, utensils of brass and copper, sweets and fruits. The Bhavnath Mahadev Temple is surrounded by many equally ancient and holy places.

Vautha Mela

This magnificent fair is held every year at Vautha, where two rivers, the Sabarmati and the Vatrak meet. Like most fair sites in India, this also has both mythological and current religious associations.The Vautha Mela site is 3 square miles in area. Legends hold that Kartik Swami or Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, visited the site. This is why the fair is held during Kartika Purnima, the full moon night of the month of Kartik, corresponding to November. The site, also known as Saptasangam, is at the confluence of seven rivers. The most important Shiva temple here is the temple of Siddhanath.What is most significant about this fair is that it is the only major animal trading fair in Gujarat and is on par with the famous camel fair at Pushkar, Rajasthan. However the only animals traded here are donkeys. About 4,000 donkeys are brought every year for sale, usually by Vanjara (gypsy) traders. The pilgrims who visit Vautha during the fair are from several communities and include farmers, labourers and people belonging to several castes.

Dangs Darbar

Dangs Darbar is the name of the annual fair held every year in Ahwa, the most important town in the Dangs a few days before Holi. The Dangs is one of the most delightful districts of Gujarat and is located high in the Saputara hills, the original home of the adivasis, the tribal population of Gujarat.The name 'Darbar' dates back to the time of the British, when a darbar of Rajas and Naiks of neighbouring area used to assemble there. Today it is called Jamabandi Darbar and the District Collector officiates at it. Thousands of tribal people flock to Ahwa from all over the district, dressed in bright colours sounding the Shehnai and beating their drums. Folk dances, dramas and songs enliven the air during the festival.

Shamlaji Melo

The Shamlaji Melo, also called the Kartik Purnima fair is held in the month of November every year and lasts for about two weeks. It is attended by almost two hundred thousand people from adjoining districts and even from Rajasthan.Devotees belonging to various castes and communities including the Garasias and Bhils throng this festival. These pilgrims come in groups, singing devotional songs and carry religious banners to have a darshan (worship)of the deity at the Shamlaji Temple. The Shamlaji Temple is a renowned Vaishnav Shrine and the deity housed here is known by various names included Gadadhar (bearer of the mace) and Shaksi Gopal. The fair is also popular with the tribal people of the area, particularly the Bhils, who revere Shamlaji, the deity they refer to as 'Kalio Bavji', the dark divinity. The temple is of great archaeological significance as it was built in the 11th century. Apart from a darshan of the deity in the temple, the pilgrims consider a bath in the river Meshwo essential.

Chitra - Vichitra Mela

This fair, one of the largest, purely Adivasi (tribal) fairs attended by around 60,000 to 70,000 tribal people. It takes place every year in the village of Gunbhakhari in Sabarkantha district, very near the borders of Rajasthan. It is held a fortnight after Holi, the festival of colours.The site of the fair is attractive as the temple overlooks the rivers Sabarmati, Akul and Vyakul. The name of the fair is derived from Chitravirya and Vichitraviraya, the sons of King Shantanu, who are believed to have lived here and been cured of diseases which afflicted them. The fair attracts large numbers of Bhils (tribals) who come from all the surrounding districts using every imaginable form of transport. The Garasis and Bhil tribals dress in their customary colourful costumes. The costume of the men generally consists of a blue shirt, dhoti and a red or saffron turban. Women don ghaghras (embroidered skirts) which have a circumference of as much as 20 yards, and are covered from head to foot with ornate and heavy silver jewellery. They use liquid kumkum (vermilion) to colour their cheeks and lips a brilliant red, while their eyes are outlined with kajal (kohl). Every group that comes to the fair carries its own drum making the atmosphere come alive with the incessant beat of numerous drums. The fair also acts as a venue for betrothals, as tribal youth use this opportunity to find their future spouses.

Dhrang Fair

Around 40 kms from Bhuj, it is known for the samadhi of the famous saint Menkan Dada who served the community with great love and dedication and won their devotion. He was supposed to be the incarnation of Lakshmanji. A large fair is held on Magh Vad when a large number of Dada's followers from different parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan come to the Samadhi and participate in religious rituals.


Gujarat has always been known for its splendid and evocative festivals. An estimated two thousand festivals are celebrated every year in Gujarat. More than two hundred of these are unforgettable occasions that attract tens of thousands of people. Though rooted in religion and mythology, these celebrations centreing around gods and goddesses are truly secular socials in which people of all faiths participate.
The International Kite Festival
International Kite festival is held at Ahmedabad on January 14 every year, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti is a festival that heralds a change of season marking the movement of the sun into the northern hemisphere - a celebration to mark the end of winter. The gods who are believed to have slumbered for six long months are now awake and the portals of heaven are now thrown open. The temples are thronged with visitors and alms are distributed freely. A tremendous variety of kites are seen with friends, neighbours and total strangers indulging in kite fights. Special mixtures of glue and ground glass cover the lines with which the kites are flown. Experts specially prepare these lines before the great day. They are dried and rolled onto reels known as 'firkees'. Unless used carefully the strings are sharp enough to cut a finger.The nights see the arrival of the illuminated box kites, often in a series strung on one line, to be launched into the sky. Known as Tukkals, these kites add a touch of splendour to the dark sky. The festival draws expert kite-makers and flyers not only from cities of India but also from around the world.

The Kutch Mahotsav

The Kutch Mahotsav aptly called the 'Mahotsav' (great festival) is a guided tour of the life and times of Kutch, its beauty, nostalgia, ethos, traditions, culture and spirit. Kutch Mahotsav is usually organized during February and March each year. The festival organized by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat, is a six-day tour into the heartlands of Kutch.The tour includes a visit to Bhuj at the heart of Kutch, Mata no Madh, an old temple dedicated to the mother goddess believed to be 1200 years old. Lakhpat, a deserted port transports you to a time when it was once the hub of Gujarat's flourishing sea trade. The Mahotsav also takes you to Narayan Sarovar, one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for orthodox Hindus, Koteshwar and Bhadreshwar, also important pilgrimage centres along the Mahotsav circuit. Anjar, the beaches of Mandvi, Dhola Vira's archaeological ruins and the rural fair at Dhrang completes a rich insight into Kutch, its colourful people, historic towns and remarkable handicrafts.


Navratri, meaning nine nights is a colourful and ancient festival honouring the Mother Goddess- the Divine Shakti who supports the entire universe, protects worshippers, destroys evil and grants boons to her children. The mother goddess has seven well-known forms, including Kali one of her fiercest manifestations. Navratri is held annually in September-October and is celebrated with joy and religious fervour.The festival is essentially religious in nature and is celebrated with true devotion in the various temples dedicated to the Mother Goddess or Mataji as she is familiarly called. An interesting feature of Navratri is the Garba and the Dandia-Ras dances.The costumes worn for the dances are traditional and extremely colourful. These dances start very late at night and end in the early hours of the morning.


Dwarka, the city of gold. Dwarka, the abode of Lord Krishna, the city where he reigned for a hundred years. Janmashtami, the day Shri Krishna was born is celebrated with great devotion at the Jagat Mandir a temple built 1400 years ago in Dwarka. Devotees throng in thousands to celebrate this joyous occasion.Rows of lights are lit everywhere, kirtans and bhajans (devotional songs) are sung, sermons are delivered and Krishna is worshipped in his infant form.
Dance Festival (Modhera)
Resting on a knoll in the village of Modhera, the ruins of the 11th century Sun Temple are an impressive sight. The outer walls of the temple are covered with sculptures in which the figures of Lord Surya, the sun god are prominent. The Sun Temple is the site of an annual festival of Indian classical dances organized by the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. The idea is to present classical dance forms in an atmosphere they were originally presented in.

Bhadra Purnima

The full moon of Bhadrapad is one of the four most important festival days of the year, when farmers and agriculturists come to Ambaji, a place that derives its name from Goddess Ambaji whose shrine is located here. On this occasion, a large fair is organized on full moon days. In the evening, performances of Bhavai, the folk drama of the state is held and Garba programmes are organized. The devout attend readings of the Saptashati, the seven hundred verses in praise of the goddess and visit the temple for a darshan (worship) of her.The Ambaji shrine is the principal shrine of the goddess in Gujarat and its origins are still unknown. The Temple of Ambaji is recognized as one of the original Shakti Pithas (religious texts) where, according to the ancient Scriptures, the heart of the goddess Ambaji fell to earth when her body was dismembered.A triangular Vishwa Yantra, inscribed with figures and the syllable 'Shree' in the centre, represents the deity. There is no idol, which in fact testifies the temple's antiquity. Idol worship became popular much later.


The last day of the Hindu year of the Vikram era is celebrated as Diwali or festival of lights all over the State. According to the Purana, Lord Vishnu had rescued Goddess Lakshmi from the hold of King Bali on this day. It is also believed that on this day Lord Rama returned to Ayodhya. Sathia(Swastik) and Rangoli (making of attractive designs by coloured powder) marks every courtyard with rows and rows of earthen lamps lighting up the surrounding area and giving a special touch of festivity. Merchants worship Goddess Lakshmi and the books of accounts. At night firecrackers of various types are burnt by youngsters.The next day or Kartik Sud 1, the first of the Hindu calendar is celebrated as New Years Day with great solemnity.


Essentially a spring festival, there are several accounts of how Holi came to be celebrated . By one account demoness Hoda was killed by children, reducing her on a heap which was then lighted, thereby circumventing her boon of immortality. Another version treats it as day when child Krishna had sucked the demoness Putna to death. In yet another version which is popular in Gujarat, Pralhad, the son of the demon King Hiranyakashyap had emerged unhurt from the heap of fire he was made to sit on, in the lap of Holika, who got burnt instead. Thus on a full moon day of Phalgun Sud 15 Holi is celebrated to commemorate the event of one's belief. It is done by lighting a bonfire of wood and cowdung which is erected in a conical shape over a small pit which is dug at the bottom. Such fires are lit on almost all important cross-sections of roads or in the chowk of the villages. Elders predict the coming monsoon on the basis of the direction in which the flag planted atop falls. Devotees offer coconut to the fire and the youth retrieve them amidst an applause of bystanders.It is also the principal religious festival of Adivasis in Gujarat. They abandon work and indulge in ceaseless folk dancing. The girls observe this festival by growing wheat in the bamboo baskets filled with earth and manure. In some tribes people indulge in the fowlest of abuse and mock fights.


The next day after Holi is Dhuleti or Dhuli Padvo. Literally it means throwing of mud, the practice which has given way to throwing of vermilion. At times the merrymaking lapses into unhindered revelry as youngsters indulge into throwing paste colours, not only on their friends but also on strangers taking advantage of the permissiveness granted on the occasion. As noted earlier Adivasis truly celebrate this festival. In the villages of Panchmahals Adivasi men play a martial game known as Gol-Gadheda in which the women after snatching a shoulder scarf from a man, ties it on a tree top with a lump of molasses. It is the job of the man to retrieve it from there not an easy task as the tree is vigorously guarded by women.The game goes on till one of the men succeed in securing the bundle. Such is the boundless merrymaking of the day.

Rath Yatra

It is said in the Bhagvath Purana that Kansa had sent Akrur to Gokul for bringing Sri Krishna to Mathura as Krishna had left with his brother Balram by a chariot leaving behind the Gopis and Gopals weeping, the day is celebrated in remembrance of this most touching separation and farewell. The mammoth procession of Rath Yatra at Ahmedabad is the biggest in Gujarat. It starts from the Jagdish Mandir situated in the Jamalpur area of the city early in the morning. There are three separate chariots for the idols of Krishna, Balram and their sister Subhadra. The chariots resemble those at Jagannath Puri and are adorned with garlands. Music bands and Bhajan Mandlis lead the procession. Decorated elephants also move with the procession and gymnasts and acrobats perform astonishing feats. Numerous sadhus of all Vaishnavite sects and devotees join in this procession headed by the Mahant of Jagannath Temple.

Raksha Bandhan

This festival has a three fold significance. It is the day on which 1. Brahmins change their sacred thread, 2. Sisters tie Rakhi to their brothers, and 3. Sea Faring communities worship the sea. On Shravan Sud 15 when the moon is in the constellation of Shravan, the Brahmins, while changing their sacred thread, rededicate themselves to study the Vedas and pursue spiritual upliftment. Whereas generally the day celebrated by all sections of the Hindu society as a day dedicated to love of sisters for their brothers. The practise of tying the rakhi or the protective knot symbolizing the good wishes, has been an ancient one. Kuntamata of Mahabharat had tied rakhi to her grandson Abhimanyu. Another important historic incident narrates how the queen Jhorabai of Mewad summoned the help of Emperor Humayun against the invading forces of Gujarat Sultan by sending him a rakhi.The day is also celebrated as Nariyeli Poonam in the coastal areas of the State. The sea farers worship the sea by offering coconuts and set sail after the monsoon break.


Diwali, the festival of lights, commomerates the day when lord Rama returns to Ayodhya, lord Vishnu rescued Goddess Lakshmi from king Bali, and lord Krishna’s victory over the dreaded demon, Naraksura. . The celebrations of lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya, when citizens lit his way with earthen oil lamps(diyas), are re-created by lighting rows of diyas and candles, illuminating buildings, swastik and Rangoli patterns are painted in the fore court of residences as a sign of welcome and revelry. Children light fireworks to light up the sky in an array of designs, an integral part of the celebrations. The lighting of houses is said to attract Goddess Lakshmi, who brings prosperity to her devotees. The Hindu calender ends with Diwali, the next day is the Hindu new year, which begins with prayer. Relatives and freinds get together to celebrate the new year. Visit decorate their cows in a variety of colours, and feed them boiled grains. Bhaibij is the day after the new year when sisters feed their brothers. Five days after Diwali, is Pancham, an auspicious day to commence business. Jains celebrate Pancham or Panchami by worshipping their books and praying for more knowledge. Hindu business men worship Goddess Lakshmi and open their accounts.
The day before Diwali, visit the Bengal club in Ahmedabad to experience Kali pooja.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Folk Dances

The Folk Dances are the forte of the people of Gujarat who have preserved them in their pristinc glory.The folk dances are the natural amusement of the group of people living in the rural areas as well as forest dwellers of hilly areas. Their rugged vitality reflects the pulsating rhythm of rural life. It is the product of the people of the soil who have lived amidst age old traditions and hnce it represents the joy of life which is healthy, harmonious and hilarious. The folk dances of India unfold the rewildering varieties of styles, rhythms, colours, choreography, costumes, movements and songs. Indian culture with its diverse facts can present the most varied number of folk-dances, but they all possess a strong unifying bond of the cultural unity of India, the folk-dances have a religious background depicting the stories of mythologies and scriptures and also at times their blind faith in fancy and fantasy of ghosts and witches,hypnotics Tavifs deties and divinities.

The vast variety of folk-dances of India can be grouped under three heads:-

Community dances:
hold on main religious festivals and social occasions.

Tribal dances:
which have their roots in aboriginal and express the magical philosophy of life.

Folk-Culture of Gujarat:
The cults state of gujarat derived its name frm a prakrit word "Gujarratta" which means "the Land of Gurjars". The Gurjars were a foreign tribe of Central Asia who migrated to India during the fifth Cent. A.D. settled here and formed a new state. The cultural to additions in Gujarat are rooted in the pre-historic past. Research by Dr. Sanklia on the Sabarmati valley civilization reveal that before the development of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappen Civilization of urbanity,Folk Civilization of nonmic tribes was in existence. Reminiscences of that civilization ever today are visible in worship of animals,plants, trees and of the duties-gods and goddesses and even in the worship of or faith in BHUVA nacromancers and remoers of ills and evils through magic,strange reciitation of mantras and performance of irrational rituals. Pre-historic relics of Indus-Valley Civilizations reveal a striking balance with the existing folk-arts. The caly cult figures and seals reveal cult that Shiva and Shakti existed here. The Shakti will worship the goddess Ambica which prevails in parts of Gujarat along with the Garba dance a virtual dance dedicated to the goddess during the Navratri days. Most of the art traditions in Gujarat have their origin to the Panrative times of Lord Krishna.

Gujarat claims to have a unique distinction of having legendary origin of its folk dances. The folk dances are varied in their styles :-

(1) The Garba and Garbi of Mataji The Goddess (2) Raas of Aayar, Mer, Bharvad and Padhar (3) Ghoriya Raas (4) Dandiya Raas (5) Tippani (6) Mashira Nritya of Siddis (7) Swords Raas of Gallants (8) Jag Nritya. (9) Matki Nritya. (10) Ashwa Nritya (11) Hinch (12) Hsnichi (13) Titodo (14) Luvar and Adivasi dances.

The folk dances are supported by Folk Music and Folk Instruments which need special mentioning.

Folk Music Instruments: Musical Instruments used in folk songs are Percussion Instruments like Dholak, Khol, Nagaru, Tabla, etc. Morli, Pava, Shanai, Zanz, Kartal, Ektaro, Gughra, Manjira, Ravanhattho, Kansijoda, Duf, Khanjari, Mukhchang, Shankh, Bhungal etc. whereas of the adivasis tribal Folk Dances are Tur, Thali,Bhajania, Dobru, Ghanglo, Chchkya, Dhako, Vahali, Dhunak, tadku, Pavri, Robi, Kahdo etc.

Folk Music Instruments: Musical Instruments used in folk songs are Percussion Instruments like Dholak, Khol, Nagaru, Tabla, etc. Morli, Pava, Shanai, Zanz, Kartal, Ektaro, Gughra, Manjira, Ravanhattho, Kansijoda, Duf, Khanjari, Mukhchang, Shankh, Bhungal etc. whereas of the adivasis tribal Folk Dances are Tur, Thali,Bhajania, Dobru, Ghanglo, Chchkya, Dhako, Vahali, Dhunak, tadku, Pavri, Robi, Kahdo etc.

Folk Dances: Folk Dances are the valuable product of our folk culture.I.Raas Nritya is considered to be a form of Ras hale supposed to be performed by Shri Krishna at Gokul and Vrindavana. It has difficult varieties.(1) Tala Rasak(2) Laleet Rasak(3) Dhandak Rasak

Dandak Rask or Dandiya Raas
It is the distinctive dance of Saurashtra. It is refered in the Mahabharata and is the Prime element of Gopi Culture.
It is performed on festivals of Sharadpunam, Navratri, Jalzilni Ekadashi, Satam Atham (Gokul Asthami) etc. Boys, youth and young men with wooden or metal sticks having coloured flower balls at its end, dance with rhythm in varieties of ways and manners such as “Hinch”, “Kervo” etc. Dandiya Raas includes several styles such as dodhiya, Panchiya, athiya, Bariya, Bhetiya, Naman, Mandae. The Dance itself creates swastik, Trishul, Dhaja being Shakti’s symbol.
Generally it was played by man but now woman also play this raas with their menfolk.
The Aayer, Kanbi and Rajput of Saurashtra have mastery over this art exhibiting vibrant forwad, reverse and turning movements of footsteps and body-movements in bending, sitting down or getting up and gaining speed and rhythm. Raas is played with music of Dhol and Shernai in hinchtaal.

If time is measured with clapping of hands instead of sticks it is called Tala Rask. This is also called Garbi in Saurashtra where only the males participate.

If the players measure the time by different measures with their hands and refrain by their feet, it is called lalit Rasak.

The Bharwad and Rabari community have their variety of Raas which they call as” Dhoka,” In this variety, mostly songs are absent.

Dandiya Raas of Mer Community
Mer Raas: Mers are a virile backward community which migrated to Saurashtra. They are at present performed in Porbander and They are handsome and exhibit martial valour during the course of their dance. Before commencing they throw gulal over their body and dresses to exhibit joy, They use thick long sticks (Parona). This Raas is devoid of Song. The Mers from Dandiyas similar to the blow of a sword and their act of taking fudadi is simply astonishing. Their strength and speed indicates their sturdiness and vigorons life.
The Mer people also play Raas with the clapping of palms in which young and old all join and dance freely. This type of Raas is called Chabkhi.

It is popular dance of koli and kanbi community of Saurashtra. Strings of varied are tied to a ring hanged at the ceiling. The other end of the string is handed to the players who begin with Garbi and then play Dandiya Raas. During the raas, several modes such as Bethak, Fundadi, Tappa are played and then each one plays alternatively in which one comes out and other goes in circle. The strings first get knitted and then released. It is popularly called Athanga Nritya in Guarat.
Raas Raas is played by men whereas raasda are played by women,or men and women together. Raasda is a kind of Tala-Rasak. Raas has element of music and singing dominant in it. Ek Tali and Teen Tali Raasda of women are well known today. It is a kind of a Garba. Raas and Garbi are dominated by men, whereas Rasda and Garba are dominated by women. They are performed in celebrations of Vrata, wedding, and religious festivals. Love songs of Radha and Krishna are sung in Rasda. Women play Rasda with tal of Tali or Chapti and with Tal of feet supported by Dhol or without music.

Garba is a popular dance of folk of Gujarat since ancient times. It is connected with Shakti-Puja (worship of goddess having powers over all). Its origin is believed to be the worship of goddess Jagdamba. Symbolically, Garbo means an earthen pot with many holes around it. The word “garbo” is derieved from “Garbh-deep”. Subsequent derivation “Garbho” and then finally “garbo garba” means “ghado”(pot). Which is imaginatively termed as “Brahmand”. A lamp lit within “Ghado” is indicative of continuity of life. Thus garbo is a symbol of worship of and devotion to a “Adya-Shakti” who is the mother of the universe: Jagdamba.
During the nine nights of Navratri, in village streets as well as urban localities, Garba are played after hours of cowdust upto midnight. Jwara are sown in “daliya” made os dry khakhara leaves as a symbol of Mataji. Ghee and oil lamps are lit in front of Mataji’s Sthanak which is put in the chowk. Women play Garba in circle around the godess. Garba are prayers in praise of devotion to Mataji. Musical instruments like Dhol, khanjari. Manjira, Harmonium are used.
Garba songs are composed by folk poet and are lyrical poems sung in praise of Lord Krishna. Singing in chorns is an invariable accompaniment of garba Nrtiya. Other forms of Garba are Deevo, Ghado and Garbi.