A peep into the culture of Gujarat
Gujarat situated towards the North of India is surrounded by the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Though Gujarati is the official language of the state, we can find people belonging to different states speaking different languages here. The culture of Gujarat is fully evident during important festivals lime Navarathri and Diwali. During Navarathri especially, the streets of Gujarat are illuminated all through the evenings. Men and women dress in the best of their costumes and perform the famous Garba dance, where they dance in sync with each other with sticks in their hands. So popular is the Garba dance that today, Navarathri celebrations all over the country is incomplete without this dance on all the nine days of the festival.
Hinduism and Islam are the two main religions followed by the people of Gujarat. The state has produced many famous Muslims like Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ismail Darbar, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Farooq Sheik, Parveen Babi etc. A small section of Persians are also found in Gujarat. They follow the religion of Zoroastrianism. Some of the basic principles of this religion are almost similar to those found in Hinduism.
Annual fairs and festivals
Gujarat is a land of fairs. There is some fair or the other all through the year, which make the state a very colourful place to be in. Some of the important fairs of the state are during February (Bhavnath Mahadev Mela), March (Dangs Darbar, Kutch Utsav and Chitra Vichitra Mela), April (Dhrang Fair), September – October (Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair) and November (Vautha Mela and Shamlaji Melo). The festivals that represent the culture of Gujarat in its fullest form are Kite Festival during Makar Sankranti (January), Buddha Purnima and Kutch Mahotsav.
Festivities during a Gujarati wedding
North Indian weddings are generally gala affairs. A Gujarati wedding is no exception to the rule. Weddings in Gujarat are marked with pomp and splendour. The people of the state are ready to splurge on weddings. Preparations for the big day start months in advance both in the groom’s and bride’s families. The engagement ceremony which precedes the wedding is marked by a huge family gathering, exchange of rings and distribution of a sweet with a combination of jaggery and coriander seeds. In Gujarat, this ceremony is known as Gol Dhana.
Mehendi night is the first event that marks the beginning of a Gujarati wedding. In this ceremony, the bride puts on Mehendi showing beautiful designs on their hands, feets and arms. Then comes the Sangeet Ceremony, which is full of dance and music merriment. Next comes the Baraat, where the groom is seated on a horse and he, along with his family members, undertakes a procession to the bride’s house. The procession is marked by dance, fireworks and lots of celebration. Swagatam is the event where the groom and his family are welcomed by the bride’s side. Both the families then unite to perform the Ganesh Puja. Madhuparka is the next event where the bride’s parents wash the groom’s feet when the latter is seated in the wedding Mandap. A drink known as Panchamrut (combination of milk, honey, yoghurt, ghee and sugar) is offered to the groom. The bride’s father then gives away his daughter in marriage in the event called Kanya Daan. Next is the Vivaaha, where the bride’s and groom’s costumes are tied to each other. They then exchange garlands and rings before the holy fire. Mangal Phera is the next event, where the couple takes three rounds of the sacred fire praying for all happiness and prosperity. Next important step is the Saath Phera where the couple takes seven rounds around the sacred fire, confirming that they are man and wife. Then the groom ties the Mangal Sutra around the bride’s neck and applies Sindhoor on her forehead. The couple then proceeds to take Aashirvaad from both the sets of parents, thus completing their ceremonies.