AHMEDABAD: Come Wednesday and Gujarat will be at its vibrant and colourful best. For one full week, Gujaratis will immerse themselves in Navratri and Dussehra celebrations with all-night dandia dances as they combine religion and devotion with recreation and fun.
This is when Gujaratis young and old come on the streets in their traditional attire in a riot of colour. To be in Gujarat during Navratri is to witness the state at her best.
This year the Navratri celebrations fall for nine nights starting Sep 30. The extravaganza is worth witnessing for its pomp and splendour.
Many of the hundreds of thousands of Gujaratis living all over the world make it a point to visit the state during this season.
"Whenever we visit India, we plan our family get together keeping in view Navratri," says Rashmi Desai, who lives in London with her family, as she chose clothes and jewellery at the Law Garden Navratri Bazar. Bazars at Nehru Nagar Char Rasta, Manek Chowk and Hajira are also bustling with activity.
There is a blend of old and new in everything designed these days. "But chaniya choli patterns remain the same. Their colours are usually bright," points out Mukeshbhai Samadbhai Gangadia, who owns a business of Navratri costumes and employs women who work round the year to make them.
Chaniya Choli, the long flowing skirt worn with a flowing 'odhni' or long stole, is the traditional costume worn on the occasion. Men wear the kedia, a high waist top.
The trademark of the Navaratri festival is the dandia dance -- where men and women join a dance circle, holding small polished sticks or dandias. As they whirl to the music, they strike the dandias in rhythm.
The other popular dance form is the garba, performed before the 'aarti' as devotional performance in honour of the goddess while Dandiya is performed after it. So popular are the garba and the dandia-ras that competitions are held to assess the quality of the dancing.
The costumes worn for the dances are traditional and alive with colour. The dances usually commence late at night and continue until early in the morning, testifying to their immense popularity. Men and women join the Raas Dandiya and also the Garba.
Today, Raas is not only an important part of Navratri in Gujarat but extends itself to other festivals related to harvest and crops as well. Saurashtra's Mers are noted to perform Raas with energy and vigour.
Some of the traditional venues on SG Road include Rajpath and Karnavati clubs, Fun Point, the Mangalaya party plot and YMCA grounds.
Some 50 or more major garbas in the city to be held this year are mainly concentrated in Satellite, Navrangpura, Paldi, Naranpura, Law Garden, Vastrapur and Maninagar areas. Revellers from these venues generally hop from one venue to another.
But with terror attacks taking place in parts of India, security will be a major concern this time.
"Parking will be at a distance and not close to the garba venues. We will devise a traffic plan once the permissions for venues are issued," Joint Commissioner of Police Atul Karwal said.
The security concerns have given a boost to private security agencies, many of which are engaged and booked by organisers for Rs.300,000-600,000 for guarding the events for nine nights.
Navratri celebrations have witnessed a sea change in recent times.
"Perhaps it is this very reason why we youngsters keenly await Navratri," said Dhara Patel, near a snacks stall at Gujarat University.
Earlier, aarti and puja were long drawn and considered the more important aspects of Navratri. Now these rituals are carried out before the tempo is really set by the mainly young participants.
Of late, there is a demand from students and parents to get holidays during this season instead of Christmas.
Absenteeism is about 25-50 percent these days in schools and colleges, and studies get hampered as a result .
Aroma Patel, president of the Ahmedabad City School Management Association, said: "A Navratri vacation is really necessary. Maybe a short vacation at the end of it could help."