Where azure seas meet sparkling sands, blushing sunsets embrace rosy dawns. The jungles are verdant, lush and green, where lions prowl and flamingos preen. Marble temples white and pure, reflect the glory of the days of yore. Age-old palaces browned in the sun and water parks for a day of fun. Here tribal life is a celebration, of music, dance and multicolored traditions.
Gujarat, one of the most industrialized states in India is situated on the west coast of India between 20o-6′ N to 24o-42′ N north latitude and 68o-10’E to 74o-28’E east longitude. It came into existence as a separate State on 1st May 1960. Gujarat is bounded by the Arabian Sea in the West, by the States of Rajasthan in the North and Northeast, by Madhya Pradesh in the East and by Maharashtra in the South and South East. The State has an international border and has a common frontier with the Pakistan at the northwestern fringe. Gandhinagar, located near Ahmedabad is its capital. At present, Gujarat comprises of 25 districts. The official and primary language spoken is Gujarati.
The People of Gujarat
The Aryans were the first people to come from the north who either conquered or drove away the Bhils, the traditional rulers of Gujarat. Apart from these two distinct classes, a third class of people known as ‘Kolis’ are equally important and occupy an intermediate social position between the Aryans and the Bhils. Aryans are now commonly recognized as Hindus. The immigration during the medieval period brought Islam and Zoroastrianism to Gujarat and initiated the growth of a multi-religious society.
The peninsula of Kathiawar is named after the Kathis who came to Saurashtra at the close of the fourteenth century. Their origin is not fully known but it is possible that they were driven southwards by the Muslim invaders. ‘Khachar’ and ‘Chotila’ were the most important seats of the Kathis. Worshippers of the Sun, they were essentially nomadic and had developed, among other pastoral occupations, the art of horse-breeding. Successive waves of immigrants from other parts of India have led to a superimposition of different communities and cultures in Kathiawar. The powerful royal families, which conquered Saurashtra later on established their rule over there.
‘Rabaris’ are a community of cattle-breeders who have migrated from Sindh and Marwar and claim a Rajput ancestry. The Rabaris stand out prominently by their features and dress. They lead a nomadic life.
The Gujaratis, the people of Gujarat, are found all over the state. These people trace their lineage from the people originally known as Gurjars. They are believed to have come to India with the Huns and while passing through Punjab, settled in Gujarat. Gujaratis were highly influenced by the cultural waves from the mainland and accepted the monarchies that ruled over them. Various Hindu traditions like Shavism and Vaishnavism which sprang upon the mainland were imbibed by Gujarat which in turn developed its own galaxy of saints and devotees and its own art and culture. The successive waves of immigration were absorbed in the society that was fast evolving and today the word Gujarati does not seem to suggest any definite association with a particular stock, a tribe of immigrants or a specific group of people.
The Kutchis, who were the natives of the peninsula of Kutch, have their own dialects. The Kutchis are both Hindus and Muslims and a large number of them have migrated from Sindh.
The Jadeja Rajputs, the Lohanas and even the Muslims many of whom are ‘Maldharis’, the cattle-breeders, have all come from Sindh consequent upon their defeat at the hands of some kings or as a result of some religious persecution.
Festivals of Gujarat
Gujarat can be termed as the land of fairs and Festivals. Thousands of small and big fairs, and festivals are celebrated in different parts of Gujarat every year. The festivals are based on the lunar or solar calendar. Whether the festival is religious, social or related to agricultural, the people of Gujarat enjoy them with the same fervor. Many of the festivals are linked with myths and traditions. A tourist can experience the diversity of the cultural and religious traditions of the Gujarati people during the festival season. The main fairs and festivals celebrated here are International Kite festival, Diwali, Janmashtami, Holi, Tarnetar fair, Modhera Dance festival etc.
The festival of nine nights in October, preceding the Dussera is a special feature of Gujarat when people assemble in village squares and temple compounds and sing and dance till the wee hours in the morning. They worship the mother goddess and her numerous manifestations during the festival. The festival ends on the Dussera day, when artisans worship their instruments, agriculturists their ploughs, warriors their weapons and students their books. The Navaratri festival is closely followed by the Sharad Purnima, the full moon night in the Asvina month, when under the moon light people partake of prasad rice and milk. The people of Surat make merry on the Tapi bank.
Gujarat has two temples dedicated to two most popular mother goddesses of Gujarat, Amba Mata and Becharji Mata. On Kartika and Chaitra Purnima days and during the Navaratri days, people visit these temples and enjoy Gujarati’s typical folk drama, the Bhavai.
Modhera Dance Festival
The sun temple at Modhera in Mehsana district (102 km from Ahmedabad, capital city of Gujarat), in north Gujarat, built during the reign of the Solanki king Bhimdev I, represents one of the most magnificent monuments of Gujarat. The temple, though in ruins, is considered one of the best specimens of Indian art and architecture of the by gone era. The temple dedicated to Lord Surya, the sun god has its outer walls covered with sculptures in which the figures of Lord Surya are prominent.
Asvina is a month which marks the end of the harvesting season. This month ends with the festival of lights Diwali, which is a four-day festival. The first day of the festival starts with the Lakshmi Puja. The second day is considered as the day of casting off evils. The third day is the main Diwali day. On this day every home is illuminated with earthen lamps and the courtyards decorated with Rangoli designs. The fourth and the last day is the New year day for the Gujarati’s when people visit temples in colourful costumes and greet each other. The day following the new year day is called the Bhai bij day when brothers are invited by their sisters to partake of sweets with them.
The full moon day of the Kartika month, with its preceding eleventh (ekadashi) day is called the Dev-Diwali. On these days the marriage of the Tulsi plant with the Shaligram, symbolising Lord Vishnu, is celebrated in every Hindu home in Gujarat. It also marks the termination of the Chaturmans (fast), observed for the four months of rainy season, during which Hindus, mostly ladies, miss a meal on every Ekadashi day and the ascetics do not move about.
Like the Diwali, the spring festival of Holi on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna has a universal appeal. While Diwali marks the end of the monsoon and therefore the agricultural season of the Kharif crop, Holi marks the agricultural season of the Rabi crop. The next day after Holi is celebrated as Dhuleti (Dhuli Padvo) when people throw colour powder at each other and make merry.
International Kite Festival
Kite Festival, a national festival for Gujarat is observed on the 14th of January, the day when the sun enters the tropic of cancer. On this day young boys and girls and even old people, are on their house tops flying kites. Now the festival, held at Ahmedabad attracts the connoisseurs of kites from all corners of the world and is known as International Kite Festival. Started in the year 1989, it coincides with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. The change in the direction of winds on Makar Sankranti is marked by thousands of colourful kites of all patterns and dimensions which dot the blue sky. The festival lures expert kite-makers and fliers not only from major cities of India but also from around the world.
Janmasthami, the Birthday of Lord Krishna, is celebrated on the twenty-third day in the month of Shravan as per Hindu calender (August/September). It is celebrated with great fervor at Jagat Mandir in Dwaraka. The idol of Krishna as an infant is worshipped, bhajans are sung all over the state. A fair is held on this day at Jamnagar.
Balev and Raksha Bandhan
No festival except the Balev, when Brahmins change their sacred threads, is exclusive to any particular community or section. The same day sisters tie Rakhi on their brother’s wrist wishing them a happy life. The day is also celebrated as Nariyeli Poonam in the coastal areas of the State, where people worship the sea offering coconuts.
Saptak Music Festival
A festival of Indian classical music usually conducted on the First week of January in Ahmedabad every year. This festival was inaugurated by Pt. Ravi Shankar in 1980. The musical event is organized by a public charitable trust which runs the Saptak School of Music. This festival which spans the first 11 days of January, showcases the best talents and presents as many as a hundred plus musicians with sincere commitment to standards.
Gujarat has a very rich heritage of art crafts. The excavations at the Harappan sites in Gujarat at Lothal, Rangpur, Rozdi etc. have brought to light some of the very ancient handicraft articles.
The Patola of Patan is a unique fabric of Gujarat. This special variety of women’s wear is strikingly attractive with its colourful geometrical patterns. This lovely silken fabric, which resembles a printed sari is not an apparel printed by blocks. Its tie and weave method resulting in identical patterns on both sides of the fabric, involving complicated calculations, is entirely based on the geometry of the design. The process consists of dyeing the warp and the weft threads in conformity with the proposed design on the fabric. Hand-woven and silk yarn is used for weaving. The process is both costly and time consuming and the market is limited with the result that the families doing this work are fast dwindling.
Jari Industry and Embroidery
The Jari industry of Surat is one of the oldest handicrafts whose origin can be traced to the Mughal period. Surat is one of the biggest and important Jari manufacturing centres in India. The principal types of products are real gold and silver threads, imitation gold and silver threads, embroidery such as the Chalak, the Salama, the Kangari, the Tiki, mainly the Ring and the Katori for motifying in the Kinkhab (cloth of gold) and the Jari border weaving, embroidery, laces, caps, turbans, saris, and blouse pieces.
The Tanchoi or silk brocade is woven on silk cloth is decorated with the designs of birds, animals, leaves, fruits etc. The cloth is used for costly saris, blouses and tapestry. The Kinkhab or the Indian brocade is woven on the silk with gold and silver threads.
Embroidery has been a craft for women, Banni, a small village in the Rann of Kutch is known for its artistic embroidery work. Small mirrors are interspersed to lend glitter and charm. The finest type of such embroidery work with small mirrors is called Abhla-Bharat. When a bride is sent to her husband’s house, she carries with her some pieces of skirts and cholis exquisitely embroidered with minute details.
Dyeing is a hereditary art. In the past cloth was dyed in colours extracted from trees and flowers. The Sarkhei suburb of Ahmedabad was one of the indigo manufacturing and exporting centres.
The Bandhani, tie and dye variety of sari is a very popular women’s wear. It involves an intricate process of tying knots on the fine white fabrics, which are dipped in colours. The hues of deeper shades are used over the previous ones to form the coloured back ground of the cloth.
Cloth painting is a complicated and specialised job. It is done with engraved wooden blocks and with screens. Certain craftsman are doing superbly the work of printing different varieties which are locally called Chundadi, Patola Plain Gala, Lehria, Bandhani, Pomcha, Nagaria and so on. House hold utility and decorative materials such as table-cloths, bed -covers, curtains, tapestries, handbags and carpets are also prepared by this type of printing processes.
Temple curtains popularly known as Mat-no-Chandarvo is another type of printing work. The Vahari-Harijan families of Ahmedabad were engaged in this type of printing. It is prepared in the old madder process and depicts goddess Durga seated on the throne or on the back of a tiger and surrounded by her devotees.
Wood carving is an ancient art of the state which has attained a very high standard of technical skill. Some of the best examples of wood-carvings are found in temples and houses in many parts of Gujarat. The wood carvers produce life-like figures of animals, artistic objects of every-day use such as teapoys, table lamps, stools and toys for children. Mahuva and Idar are famous for their lacquer toys. Sankheda in Baroda district is known for its lacquer work. The work is done on country-wood which gives darker shades. The coating is done with fine lac. Women folk of Saurashtra prepare idols, toys, ash-trays, toilet-boxes, lamp-stands and flower-pots from the pulp of rags, banana stumps and bamboos. Artistic Jars, water-pots and other utility articled are prepared from clay.
Bead- work is a speciality of Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Junagadh. Decorative pieces like torans, chopat, carpets, caps, and belts are some of the fine articles of bead-work. The art of making jewellery and precious stone-cutting and processing is a traditional handicrafts of Gujarat. Gold smithy includes filigree-work, open-wire-work, carving etc. The folk jewellery of excellent designs, characteristic of each village and each community as a typical art of Gujarat. The silver craft is a specialty of Kutch, in which light embossing is done on thin silver plates and is enhanced by etching and scrapping. Attardanis, Gulsbdanis, Flower-vases, trays, jewellery-boxes, powder-boxes, ash-trays and cigarette-boxes are some of the articles of silver craft.