Garbas are back and the state is all set to witness its grandeur with Navratri beginning on Monday, two years after the Covid-19 pandemic halted the celebrations.
All roads lead to garba grounds in Vadodara, even before the actual festival has commenced. Several local garba organisers in Manjalpur, Karelibaug, Waghodia Road and other areas organised “ratris before Navratri” over the weekend on Saturday and Sunday, to allow patrons two additional days of merriment.
Kapil Shah, a resident of Manjalpur, who attended a garba at a local ground in the area on Saturday, said, “Now that the pandemic is almost over, normalcy is back… markets are open and people are excited to get garba costumes made, check on the latest garba playlists and add new steps into the performances… We are looking forward. The pre-Navratri garba had a huge crowd.”
Tarak Patel, vice-chairman of the Resources Development Committee (RDC) of United Way of Baroda — the biggest garba in Vadodara — said that they have decided to make the venue more vibrant to beat the blues that Covid-19 has left behind.
Patel told The Indian Express, “The decorations will be more colorful and vibrant as garbas will be held after two years. We have additional lighting arrangements. Singer Atul Purohit has already announced the launch of three new garba (songs) this year.”
UWB, which will hold its event at a ground in Kalali for the first time, has already got around 35,000 registrations so far. “We are expecting 35,000 to 38,000 players daily, apart from spectators. This year, the ground in Kalali is more approachable from the main road and has ample parking space. Since Gandhi Jayanti coincides with Navratri, we have decided to announce a tricolour dress code for the players. We will also play the national anthem to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi…,” said Tarak Patel.
The Vadodara Navratri Festival (VNF), which will be held at its usual venue in Navlakhi, has also planned “surprises” for the players. Mayank Patel of VNF said, “We have set up food courts at both entry points with delicacies from across Gujarat. After Covid-19 restrictions interrupted garbas for two years, this year, the organisers are making it more interesting for the participants. We have surprises… it will be revealed during the nine nights.” VNF has got close to 45,000 registrations, Mayank Patel said.
The organisers have already put out a list of the songs to allow groups to choreograph the garbas.
Mitanshi Parikh, a student, who is attending VNF, said her group of friends had hired a choreographer. “We are a group of 15… Every year, we choreograph our own steps but this time, since we are playing commercial garba after long, we hired a choreographer. We want to make this garba very special. We have practiced for almost a month… Our costumes are ready too.”
The royal family of Vadodara has also organised a heritage garba at the Motibaug palace. Apart from the major commercial garbas, several other organisers have also decided to add “unique” features to garbas this year.
In Anand and Kheda districts, several Garba organisers are expecting NRI players, who have come down to celebrate Navratri. Ashmit Patel, a resident of Anand, who has arrived from the US along with his family, said, “We are here for 10 days… It is a great feeling to be in India and in our hometown for Navratri because despite the best of things we get to organise the festivals there, the feel, flavour and fervour of being in Gujarat for garbas is something different. We did not want to miss it.”
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Organisers have also increased their insurance costs this year, following the bad weather forecast for Navratri, to as high as Rs 6.5 crore for one garba venue in Vadodara. UWB has also brought in special soil to ensure fast draining of water in case of rain.
Tarak Patel said, “Given the indications for rain during the nine nights, we have used special sand that would allow the ground to be dried faster.”