(Last Updated on : 24-01-2009)
Gujarat Temple Festivals are vibrant events of the state in association with the ancient religious customs. Gujarat is often said to be the land of fairs and festivals. Thousands of small and big fairs, and religious festivals are celebrated in different parts of Gujarat every year. The Gujarat Temple Festivals are based on the lunar or solar calendar. Whether the festival is religious, social or related to agricultural, the people of Gujarat take pleasure in them with equal fervor. Many of the Gujarat Temple Festivals are linked with myths and traditions. A tourist can experience the variety of the cultural and religious traditions of the Gujarati people during the festival season. The main fairs and festivals celebrated in Gujarat are Janmashtami, Diwali, Holi, International Kite festival, Tarnetar Fair, Modhera Dance festival etc.
Navaratri is the primary Gujarat temple festival that is observed for nine nights in October, preceding the Dussera. When people assemble in village squares and temple compounds to pray to Goddess Durga, they sing and dance according to folk traditions. 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 Sharad Purnima closely follows the Navaratri festival, on the full moon night in the Asvina month. The people pray to the deities for long hours and ultimately at midnight they eat the Prasad of rice and milk.
Gujarat has two temples dedicated to two most popular mother goddesses of Gujarat, Amba Mata and Becharji Mata. Quite ideally therefore Gujarat temple festivals revolve round these two temples. On Kartika and Chaitra Purnima days and during the Navaratri days, thousands of people visit these temples and enjoy Gujarati's typical folk drama, the Bhavai. Janmashtami is one of the main Gujarat Temple Festivals that commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna and is celebrated on the twenty-third day in the month of Shravan according to the Hindu calendar. This Gujarat Temple Festival is celebrated with great fervour at Jagat Mandir in Dwaraka. The idol of Krishna is worshipped as an infant; bhajans are sung all over the state. A fair is held on this day at Jamnagar.
Balev and Raksha Bandhan are also religious festivals of Gujarat. During Balev, the Brahmins change their sacred threads and this is exclusive to a particular community or section of the society. On 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 in certain temples. The Gujarat Temple Festivals are closely knitted with their ancient tradition and still follows the rituals with rigidity.