India and his Festivals: Navratri
Colors, Music and Happiness
Navratri means “nine nights” it is one of the most wonderful festivals celebrated all over India and Nepal. This festival happen in the beginning of October but the exactly date is determinate according with the Lunar Calendar. You can choose any of the magicals cities of Rajasthan as Jaipur (The Pink city), Udaipur (City of Lakes), Jodhpur (the Blue city) or Jaisalmer (the city inside a forte), these options are the traditional and organized for tourist, wich are really nice and colorful but if you are more like me and want to go for a really native experience I‘m going to suggest to go for any city in Gujarat. In my case a choose Vadodara or in English Baroda. Baroda is located 6 hours way by train from Mumbai and 2 from Ahmadabad, the largest city of the state. If you want to know a nice and traditional India, you should come and visit it. Gujarat is the home of Gandhi and who preached unity between all religions and became a worldwide figure for peaceful struggle against tyranny. Because of that, Gujarat is a dry state. Dry state? How come can it be? Well is one of the few states in India, where Indians are not allow to drink and foreigner have to ask for a permission to buy in some hotels 5 beers per week or 2 bottles of any alcohol they sell (mostly Vodka, Whisky, Indian Wine called “Sula” and Rum)..They actually have a register of how much alcohol you buy. Also most all the people living there is vegetarian but you can find some restaurants than offer some chicken and lamb dishes but you will never find beef.
Talking more specifically about Baroda my hosting city, there are not many touristic places; the most stunning thing is the energy of the people. In any case there are places that you have to visit once you are in this warming city. You have to know that India is a country of kingdoms and still there are in some cities Royal families; so one of the places a will suggest you to visit is the Lakshmi Vilas Palace. Still I can remember how relax I feel being there, around the palace everything is green and you can see the Peacocks and monkeys walking everywhere. Also theses big gardens are used for practice Golf and Cricket (The national sport) and also if you want to relax there is behind the palace a area of a nice swimming pool and wonderful spa where you can really leave all the stress in the pass and enjoy. Is there something better to do before or after a festival?
Well maybe is a good idea to leave it for a program after the festival cause before you will need to go and find your dress for the festival, there is a dress code if you want to go in the ground and be part of the show, where the action happen or if you just want to have a look you can wear a kurta or anything you wish (Indian dress). The Indian dress code for go to the dance floor is an absolutely beautiful dress called Chaniya Choli for ladies and men go on their beutiful kurtas. And that is the point where my day before a big festival starts, I was in the middle of the city trying to identify what kind of dress was the perfect for me, there were so many options! I was feeling confuse, I really wanted to look as good as them, wanted to feel like a native. On the streets there was people selling super colorful and shine dresses, I wanted to feel like a native but seeing that I had a inner voice who talk me you will look like a lamp! Fortunately my host call me and I had a chance to ask where to buy a nice Chaniya Choli. I took a rickshaw (Have you see that cutie three-wheeled passenger car used as a public transportation in some Asian countries, That one!) and told him “Chalo, Chalo old city, please!”. Well chalo was one of the few words that I learned there and means let’s go. We arrive there and I was just in front of the Famous Sursagar Lake that I have seen many time in pictures,mmm let me tell you that its photogenic but been in from of it, I got a bit disappointed, the Shiva in the middle of the water was looking imposing, but it was very dirty and there were many people begging for something to eat. A turn left and found the Bandia Bazar, it is the perfect place for buying the accessories and dress for the festival or anything Indian that you want. When you are a foreigner in this country, the best way to get what you want in the real and fair price is bargaining, and I wasn’t so good doing that, but after this experience I could say, I’m a professional doing it.
Arrive my first day of the festival and my body wanted to start dancing. Everything was like in a musical; we were getting ready and moving our bodies with the rhythms of the boom bam boom or the Dhating Naach. Make friends in India is really easy, they are really nice people and always want to show you something about their culture. We were ready and I really try to look more Indian, I did my hair, my makeup and Voilá!. India made magic on my, I never looked like them but was feeling part of them. We arrived in the ground and there was around 2000 people, all of them wearing very different dresses and dancing with the same steps all around, following the rhythm of the musician who was playing the Tabla (Indian Drum) and singing (Praying) in the middle of the ground. This dance is call Garba and it is a Devotional Dance, sometimes they use to clap or use an instrument call Dandiya Sticks to follow the rhythm. You don’t need to go every day to the end of the festival but there are some options in Baroda, all of them with the same essence but expressing different things and playing different music; Let me give you my Top 3 of places for playing or watching Garba during Navratri. The power of the music make you feel like don’t wanting to stop, and they start from dancing in a slow rhythm to one super fast that if u got the steps you will end very dizzy.
- The united way of Baroda, it’s the largest and most famous ground cause is friendly with your feed (the floor is of grass), they have the most famous musicians, the decoration is full of flowers You will have to pay but its massive.
- On the Gotri road, This is one of the biggest, the floor is not so comfy but still is good, for go inside the ground you should leave your shoes outside, so I suggest you to go with some comfortable flip-flop; outside the ground you can find amazing local food like Pani puri, Sev-usa or my favorite one Samosa, Inside is well decorated and some of the musicians are famous what makes the people go more crazy.
- There instrumental one, in the faculty of arts of Baroda University (One of my favorites cause the music, but it is just for go and watch).
How to arrive: Flight, Train or bus.
Where to eat Indian Food: Lazees (Amazing Panner and Chicken Tikka), That place (International Food), Barbeque Nation (All you can it, Wonderful), Saffron (Gujarati Food, Vegetarian).
Where to go for ice cream or dessers: Chocolate Room, Baskin&robin.
The best tea or Samosa on the street or in the night Bazaar
Enjoy other little things you will surely Happy.