Fair and Festivals of Gujarat
International Kite Festival
The International Kite Festival is always held in Ahmedabad on January 14, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. It is a joyous day, with a bright sun, clear skies and breezes strong enough to to lift innumerable kites aloft. It is infact a celebration to mark the end of winter, when the heat of summer is still to come.
Kites are flown all over Gujarat, and Ahmedabad and Baroda become cities of Kite-flyers, when all other work is forgotten and cares are put aside for the morrow.
Kite-flying starts at dawn and continues without a pause throught the day. Friends, neighbours and total strangers battle one another for supremacy and cries of triumph rend the air when someone cuts the line of a rival. A tremondous variety of kites is seen and the connoisseur can ahoose precisely what he wants. Even the lines with which the kites are flown are specially prepared by the experts before the great day.
Modhera Dance Festival
The ruins of 11th centuary Sun Temple at Modhera in North Gujarat, are an impressive sight. It stands on a knoll in the village of Modhera, eighteen miles south of Anhilvad, the former Hindu capital of Gujarat. Modhera was evidently a site of great importance at one time. The style in which the temple was built bears a strong resemblance to that of the Jain temples at Mount Abu. The outer walls of temple are covered with sculptures in which figures of Lord Surya are natuarally prominent. The Idea that inspired the festival is to present calssical dance forms in an atmosphere similar to that in which these were originally presented.
So successful was the presentation, that a decision was taken to make it an annual event. The dance festival is scheduled to be held during the third week of January every year, after the festival of Uttrayan.
Janmashtami at Dwarka
Dwarka, the city of gold. Dwarka, the abode of Shri Krishna. This is how devotees think of the city where Lord Krishna settled over 5000 years ago after leaving Mathura for ever, and where he reigned for 100 years. For pilgrims dwarka's presiding deity remains Shri Krishna, and they flock there in their thousands from all parts of India and Abroad.
Janmashtami, the birthday of Shri Krishna, is celebrated with great splendour. Rows of lights are lit everywhere, kirtans and bhajans are sung, sermons are delivered and Krishna is worshipped in his infant form.
Thousands of people go to Dwarka to visit the temple and participate in the fair. After visiting the main temple, the devotees go to Shankhoddhar Beyt. There are also some other important temples which can be visited, both old and new.
Navratri, meaning 'nine nights', is an ancient and colourful festival. It honours the one Divine Shakti or Force which supports the entire universe, and is personified as the Mother Goddess. She protects her worshippers, destroys evil and grants boons to her children. The Mother Goddess has seven well-known forms, depending upon the special powers she manifests. Throughout Gujarat, Navaratri is celebrated with joy and religious fevor.
Another interesting feature of navratri is the garba, a circular dance performed by women around an earthenware pot called a garbo, filled with water. As the dancers whirl around the pot, a singer and a drummer provide the musical accompaniment.The participants clap in a steady rhythm.
Another dance which is also a feature of Navratri is the dandia-ras or 'stick' dance, in which men and women join the dance circle, holding small polished sticks or dandis. As they whirl to the intoxicating rhythm of the dance, men and women strike the dandias together, adding to the joyous atmosphere. So popular are the garba and the dandia-ras that competitions are held to assess the quality of the dancing. Prizes are given to those judged to be the best.