Gujarat ranks highest in the country in terms of number of fairs conducted every year. There are close to 3500 fairs conducted annually here. These fairs are mostly organised by the tribal population. Therefore, these fairs, in addition to reflecting the rich cultural heritage of the place, also reflect the lifestyles and deep rooted traditions of the tribal population of the state. These fairs are the best places to visit if tourists want an idea about the culture, value and heritage of Gujarat. It is a priceless experience to witness these fairs. These fairs have a very deep history as some of them have existed right from the times mentioned in the Bible. Even in the earlier days, there are evidences of fairs that existed, that were organised by people of specific religions.
These innumerable fairs and expositions make Gujarat a very vibrant state. Around 3500 fairs are organised in the state every year. These fairs are great samples of the rich cultural diversity and deep rooted traditional value system of the state. Most of these fairs have religious and mythological reasons behind these and they are organized with great festive fervour, splendour and pomp.
The fairs in Gujarat have various social, religious and cultural implications. It is because of these fairs that all the others states and countries have started to notice the state. The Kite Festival and Investor’s Summit are few fairs, where international and local tourists flock in huge numbers. Some of the fairs that never lose their sheen and always attract thousands of tourists every day are the industrial and commercial trade fairs. Most of these fairs showcase some of the exquisite pieces of arts and sculptures, fashion trends from all over the world, high end technological equipment, food courts selling different types of global cuisine, construction, real estate and interior designing equipment.
The Kutchch carnival is another important fair in Gujarat that attracts tourists from across the globe. Cultural programmes, excellent laser light shows, different cuisines and intricate handicrafts complement the look of these of fairs. The nickname of Kutchch is “Cradle of Craftsmanship”.
Major Fairs in Gujarat
There are around 3500 fairs and 1000 festivals are celebrated in Gujarat with great fervour, all through the year. Some important fairs are:
Bhavnath Mahadev Mela (February)
The Bhavnath Mahadev temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, at the base of the G Girnar Mountain. There are various other ancient temples of historical importance near this temple. Every year, during the Mahashivarathri festival during February, the Bhavnath Mahadev Mela is held and goes on for five days. It has been the age old belief, that during this fair, this shrine is visited by Lord Shiva Himself. As the prayer ceremony progresses, the naked saints, also known as Naga Bavas who live in the vicinity, ride on elephants and come to this venue and blow away conches as they hold flags in their hands. The organisers of this festival provide free food to all the tourists. These fairs witness numerous hawkers putting up stalls selling brass and copper utensils, idols, holy beads brought in from Ayodhya and Mathura, fruits and sweets. On the 14th day of the month of Magh, there is a massive Puja that is conducted in this temple.
Dangs Darbar (March)
This is one of the most colourful tribal fairs in the state of Gujarat. Every year, this festival is conducted at Ahwa, the most significant town of the Dangs District. Dangs is one of the picturesque districts of Gujarat situated at the backdrop of Saputara Hiils. The festival of colours, Holi follows soon after this fair. These hills were originally the abode the tribal people, the adivashis. Therefore this fair reflects the tribal culture perfectly, as every year, there are millions of tribal people who come to this place, heavily decked up, playing the Shehnai while rhythmically beating their drums. Cultural performances like dance, drama and folk songs are performed by them in this festival. The name Darbar came into existence, because, in the earlier days, the British Darbar consisting of Rajas and Naiks were conducted in close vicinity to the Ahwa town.
Chitra –Vichitra Mela (March)
This is one of the biggest and most colourful tribal fairs of Gujarat. The Adivashis organise this fair every year in the Gunbhakhari village in the district of Sabarkantha just touching upon the state of Rajasthan. The name of this fair comes from Chitravirya and Vichitravirya, the sons of the great Emperor, Shantanu. These two princes were believed to have lived in this place and cured of their ailment. Every year, this fair witnesses around 60000 to 70000 tribal people who come here and offer some excellent cultural performances. The main tribal sects who visit this fair are the Bhils and Garasis. These people come from very far places in their traditional clothes to take part in this fair. Men wear blue shirts, white dhotis and a red or orange turban. Women wear embroidered long skirts, known as Ghagharas. They adorn themselves with heavy pieces of silver jewellery all over their body. Their skirts flow a long way up to as much as 20 yards. Their cheeks and lips are adorned with bright red vermillion in liquid state. Women apply a thick layer of kohl on their eyes. These groups that gather at the venue bring drums with them and keep beating their dreams rhythmically as women keep singing interesting folk songs. The celebrations run till the wee hours of morning. The fair houses hundreds of food stalls selling lip smacking local delicacies and sweets. There are also stalls selling silver jewellery and other goods needed for one’s home. Like most of the other fairs, one can find various adventure games like giant wheel and merry go around here too. This fair is convened 15 days after Holi. The temple where is fair is conducted is very ancient and provides a breath taking sight as it looks into Sabarmati, Vyakul and Akul rivers.
Dhrang Fair (April)
During many years ago, there lived a saint called Menkan Dada. He contributed immensely for the welfare and development of the area of Bhuj. Lots of devotees started worshipping him. He was buried at a place about 40km from Bhuj. Dada was believed to the human form of Lakshman. MaghVad is the time, when a fair is held in the place that contains the Samadhi of Dada. The fair is attended by thousands of Dada’s devotees from Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Trinetreshwar Mahadev Fair (September-October)
Just about 40km from Rajkot, is the small town of Tarnetar where the Trinetreshwar Mahadev fair is held every year during the first week of Bhadrapad. In close vicinity to the fair, is the famous Trinetreshwar Mandir, a temple where a three-eyed Lord Shiva is the main deity. This temple is quite ancient and is believed to be about 100 years old. This historic temple has a reservoir built around it and thousands of devotees take a holy dip in this reservoir as it is believed to be pure and sacred just like the mighty Ganges. Devotees believe that a holy dip in this reservoir will absolve them of all their sins. This fair is a tribal fair. It resembles a Svyamvar because, this is the fair where young and eligible tribal men choose their life partners. These tribal men dress up in colourful dhotis, waistcoats and wear attractive turbans or sport a distinct hair style. They also carry umbrellas that contain heavy embroidery. The women in the village then choose the partners they like and marriage is fixed. The bridegrooms are differentiated from other tribal men only through the exotic umbrellas they carry or the novel hairstyles that they sport. There are various cultural activities and healthy competitions in this tribal fair. There are around 300 stalls that sell handicrafts and embroidered work, showcase their cattle strength and contain many different types of food and refreshments.
Vautha Mela (November)
Rivers play an important role in this fair as it held at Vautha, which is the meeting place of the two rivers; Sabarmati and Vatrak. The place where the fair is held is also known as Saptasangam, meaning the meeting point of seven rivers. This is a tribal fair and is celebrated with huge fervour. There are various religious and mythological reasons behind this. This fair is conducted during Karthik Purnima, as devotees believe that Lord Karthikeya, son of Lord Shiva visits this place during this time. It is conducted at an area of 3 square miles. This fair is also close to the famous Shiva.
The fair is characterised by the biggest congruence of animals, specifically donkeys, at one single place. In terms of size, this can be easily compared to the famous camel fair at Pushkar in Rajasthan. Around 4000 donkeys are traded in this fair every year by the traders belonging to the gypsy community. There are lots of farmers, labourers, traders etc. who visit this fair in large numbers annually.
Shamlaji Melo (November)
This fair is conducted during the auspicious time of Karthik Purnima and goes on for two weeks. The Garasias and Bhils are the tribal communities that attend this fair in huge numbers. On an average, around 200 thousand people attend this festival every year. The people come from the neighbouring state of Rajasthan and many other places and belong to diverse cultures and communities. The tribal people keep singing folk songs and dance continuously at the Shamlaji temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and the Lord is known by many names amongst the tribal people. While some refer the Lord as protector of maces, Gadadhar, some call him as Sakshi Gopal. The Bhils address the lord as dark divinity, Kalio Bavji. This temple was built somewhere during the 11th century and is an architectural marvel today. People, who visit the temple during this fair, also consider it mandatory to take a holy dip in the Meshwo River.
This fair is held in the Trinetreshwar Mahadev temple at Surendranagar district of Gujarat and is considered to be one of the most famous fairs of the place. The Lord is also known as Tarnetar. It is believed that this was the place where the Svyamwar of Draupadi happened and where Arjun exhibited one of the best archery moves ever seen, the Matsyavedh. During this fair, the temple is flocked by villagers who come here in large numbers, dressed up exquisitely, wearing heavy jewellery and keep dancing and singing all through the duration of the fair. The Rasada is one of the major attractions of the fair. This is a cultural performance of dancing and singing by the womenfolk of the tribal population. Women move rhythmically in a circle and their movements are in perfect sync with the sound of the drums and double flutes that are played
The Kutchch valley is the most scenic places in Gujarat as it has major attractions like beaches, wildlife and historic monuments. Every year during the last week of February and first week of March, the Kutchch Mahotsav is held.
Sanskruti Kunj Fair
Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat is the chosen venue for the Sanskruti Kunj fair that is held in the state every year during the winter seasons. This festival showcases the different culture and heritage of the different states in the country through healthy competitions of dance and songs.
This fair goes on for ten days and is situated on the scenic places; bank of Sabarmati River. It is usually spread over a 12 hectare land. The fair is open to the public every day from 2PM to 10PM on all days. Every day, post 7.30PM; tourists can witness some of the excellent folk dance performances by professional dancers.
Vautha No Melo
This fair is known for its huge number of donkeys that are traded by the gypsy traders. This fair happens at a place close to Ahmedabad at Vautha, where two rivers meet each other.
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