Navratri, meaning ‘nine nights’, is one of the most popular and widely celebrated Hindu festivals in many parts of India. Gujarat, however, is the only state that erupts into a nine-night dance festival, perhaps the longest in the world. It describe as a cultural celebration unparallel in absolute size. The whole atmosphere is one of festivities and celebration for the nine nights leading to the evening of Dusserra when Durga is said to have beaten the demon, Mahishasura, and Rama is believed to have beaten Ravana.
The excitement of Navratri begins long before the festival itself. People labour for month to design, stitch, and assemble the best getup for Navratri. Chaniya Cholis the most popular dress of women during Navratri is designed on embroidery mirror inlays, appliqué, tie and die and print to decorate the dresses. Even the male dancer quiet looks as a peacock from his colourful turban, embroidered shoes, jackets, Jabba, Kurtas and brightly coloured Pyjama. The streets and markets everywhere in Gujarat are lined with costumes and ornaments for sale.
The best known dance is Garba of women and Garbi of men, which is performed in a circle with the dancers clapping hands, snapping fingers or striking sticks on the tal or beat. The atmosphere of devotion is remarkable at the temple of the goddesses. The shakti pith, major pilgrimage center for believers in mother goddesses for Shakti, like Ambaji in north Gujarat, Pavagadh near Vadodara and Bahuchraji near Mehsana are the focal point of pilgrimage during this festival. People begin to dance in a circle, whirling away till late into the night. It is not uncommon to find dancers with swords or lit flames and other spectacles.
Garba occurs at night in towns and areas all around Gujarat so just step outside and follow the booming Garba music. Vadodara and Ahmedabad are considered the cultural capital of Gujarat, and the most sought after location for celebrating Navratri. Try to visit at least one village Garba too, for a range of experience.
Navratri is celebrated for nine nights, beginning on the first day of the bright fortnight of the Hindu month Ashwin, roughly corresponding to dates in the Gregorian calendar in September/October. This
also usually coincides with the end of the rainy season. Dusserra / Vijayadashami, is the tenth day of Ashwin.