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  Gujarat festivals
Home :: Gujarat festivals
Gujarat could well be termed the 'Land of Festivals and Fairs'.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.

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 centering around gods and goddesses are truly secular socials in which people of all faiths participate.

Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair (Tarnetar Mela)
The small hamlet of Tarnetar, about 75 kilometers 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 colorful dhotis, waistcoats and eye-catching turbans come to be chosen by village belles dressed in colorful finery.

The bachelors are usually identified by their large colorful 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).

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, laborers and people belonging to several castes.

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.

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.

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 of neighboring 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 colors sounding the Shehnai and beating their drums. Folk dances, dramas and songs enliven the air during the festival.

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 colors.

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 colorful costumes. The costume of the men generally consists of a blue shirt, dhoti and a red or saffron turban.

Women wore 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 jewelry. They use liquid kumkum (vermilion) to color 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.

The Chitra Vichitra Fair at Poshina (Gunbhakhari) will be held on 24, 25 and 26 March 2001. This fair takes place in the village of Gunbhakhari in Sabarkantha District, very near the borders of Rajasthan. It is held a fortnight after the Holi Festival. The fair site is attractive, as the temple which is its focus overlooks the rivers Sabarmati, Akul and Vyakul. It is one of the largest purely adivasis fairs of the border region and attracts large numbers of Bhils who come from all the surrounding districts using every imaginable form of transport. The name of the fair is derived from Chitravirya and Vichitravirya, the sons of King Shantanu, who are believed to have lived here and been cured of diseases which afflicted them.

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.

Hatheesing Jain Temple
Built outside Delhi Gate in 1850 by a rich Jain merchant, the Hatheesing Temple is the best known of Ahmedabad's many ornate Jain temples. Built of pure white marble and profusely decorated with rich carvings, the Hatheesing Temple is dedicated to Dharamnath, the 15th Jina or Jain apostle. Within the city there are many other Jain temples with remarkable carvings in stone and wood.

Location: Ahmedabad

Amba Bhavani Temple
Situated on the Arasur hill near Mount Abu, Ambaji is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Gujarat because of the famous temple of goddess Ambaji, also known as Amba Bhavani or Arasuri. It is the principal shrine of the goddess in Gujarat and its actual origins are still unknown. The fact that this temple does not have an idol is indicative of it antiquity, since the worship of images of deities became popular much later.

Built of the finest quality of marble, the temple of Ambaji is recognized as one of the original Shakti Pithas where, according to the ancient Scriptures, the heart of the goddess Ambaji fell to earth when her body was dismembered. The deity in the temple is represented not by an idol but by a triangular Vishwa Yantra, inscribed with figures and the syllable 'Shree' in the centre.

During the holy month of Bhadrapad, devotees trek hundreds of miles on foot to reach the temple by Bhadrapad Poonam. In the vicinity are the well-known Jain Temples of Kumbharia and Gabbar, a steep hill whose peak bears the footprints of the goddess.
Location: Ambaji

The most famous temple of the Swaminarayan Sect, one of the richest religious sects in the world. The temple was built in the memory of Sreeji Swami its founder in 1993. Sreeji Swami was opposed to the Brahminical complexity of rituals.

The merchant community who were not able to follow these rituals and flexibility in temple timings were his main followers. It is built of pink stones with beautiful carvings and is surrounded by lush green gardens and beautiful fountains. It also incorporates an amusement park, a museum, a cafeteria, picture gallery and library. Akshardham is situated 32 kms. north east of Ahmedabad.
Location: Gandhinagar

Situated 56 kms. from Mehsana, nestled in the hills of Taranga, is the temple dedicated to Ajitnath, the 22nd Tirthankara of Jains. One of the most beautiful locations, the temples are a "must visit" on a Gujarat traveller's circuit. Though the hills are not high, only 365 metres (1200 ft), they offer a marked change from the surrounding region, due to their climate and panoramic views. The 12th century Ajitnath Temple, believed to be built by King Kumarpal, humbles the visitor by its grandeur. It consists of a Garbhagriha, ambulatory and three balconied windows filled with fine grills. The highlight of the temple are its massive pillars, softened by the beautiful carvings over them. In the centre is the octagonal nave topped by a beautifully decorated carved ceiling, 11mts in diameter. The porches on the sides are large and spacious with equally impressive columns. The temple which has retained its original form and design has a storied arrangement both inside and outside. The upper storey is concealed from the view and is accessible only by a very uncomfortable ladder. It is therefore considered a secret storey. Wooden bars are used to support widely separated walls.
Location: Mehsana

The Sun Temple at Modhera
Constructed in 1026-27 A.D. during the reign of King Bhimdev I of Patan, the temple is dedicated to Surya or the Sun God. Although it bears a dilapidated look, it is still a magnificent specimen of superb artistry of Gujarat's architects of the bygone days. Modhera's sun temple is positioned in such a manner that at the equinoxes the rising sun strikes the images in the sanctuary. It also incorporates an amusement park, a museum, a cafeteria, picture gallery and library. The canvas on the walls and pillars depict the incidents from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and forms of gods and goddesses and the way of life of the people of that time. An interesting iconography is one with three heads, three arms and three legs. The temple was ruined by Mahmud of Gazni. Adjoining the Sun Temple is the huge 'Sun Kund' (Rama Kund) surrounded by step-terraces with numerous smaller temples numbering about 108.
Location: Modhera

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