Monday, October 29, 2012

Navratri Festivities in Gujarat

Last week I had one of my most exhilarating experiences ever. I went to Ahmedabad in Gujarat for Navratri, a festival celebrating that the goddess Durga fought a demon for 9 days and in the end succeeded because of her feminine strengths, I think. There's a wiki page here, but the most important thing is the Garba. The Garba ground is a massive circle where people dance the traditional steps back-and-forth-round-and-clap-back-and-forth-clap-step-back-step-forth.

My couchsurfing hosts told me that many of the women save up to this festival all year, spend months sewing their costumes, often with different outfits for each day. But not only the women dress up, the men are dressed in equal grandeur and have trained just as much. The most children in Gujarat are born 9 months after Navratri. The splendid dress and mesmerizing dancing creates an atmosphere out of the ordinary in an otherwise alcohol-free state.

So many of the women's outfits were breathtaking. And when you realise that all the colours are embroidered you feel like stopping them all from dancing so wildly and taking them all to a museum, but of course that would be a horrible idea. I was so inspired and in love with it all. We weren't allowed to bring in cameras, but fortunately nobody minded having their picture taken when I asked.

The girl in the first picture was an amazing 10-yearold girl who practically kidnapped me away from the people I went with. She showed me the steps and her friends laughed with me so hard at my clumsiness. I think several hours went by in an instant until her elder sisters joined. At one point we found a group of more than 20 men doing what can best be described as sit-up-dancing. They were sitting in a circle on the floor shaking their hands over their heads as they moved their upper bodies back and forth. We joined them and got a great work-out.

The event was live-streamed every day. If you want to see me catching a breath, I'm standing behind some dancing Europeans around 1h 34m into the clip above. In retrospect these videos are actually quite trippy, and I suggest you put them on to celebrate an epic Halloween party. Around 30min into the clip below we start chanting and praying. It was quite a magical moment as all the lights went off and we were left with the candles that we held in our hands.

After the days in Ahmedabad Indian Rails decided to mess a little with my tickets, and instead of going further into the countryside I went to Baroda. I spent my time there with a great couchsurfer who literally lives and works at night and sleeps in the day. He works with internet marketing, but is considering to become a tourist guide in the daytime. With his friends we went for Navratri celebration at the Fine Arts campus, Jalebis (traditional sweets eaten on the last day of Navratri), then a rooftop party. When all that was over he showed me Old Baroda and the vegetable market as the hustle and bustle of the city started just before sunrise.

The Fine Art students had taken clues from recent trends into their dresses that were more simplistic and there were no microphones. Just drums and the shrieks of their joy.

Sweet Jalebis are being cooked in pure ghee (clarified butter)

The vegetable market as it opens up to the vegetable wallahs who will sell these further in local markets.

1 comment: