Do note that the Gujarat government has announced there won't be any Garba events in the state this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Gujarat, the highlight of the nine night Navaratri festival is a dance called garba.
What exactly is it? Gujarati garba is a circular form of dance that involves clapping and whirling around what is usually an idol of the Mother Goddess in the center. It's accompanied by music and singing. Dandiya is a variant that involves the addition of sticks, which dancers beat in rhythm.
Dressing up in colorful traditional outfits is a must, especially for women who put a huge amount of effort into planning a different costume for each night of the festival.
Garba happens at night in villages and neighborhoods all over Gujarat during Navaratri. However, the best place to experience it is in the cultural capital, Vadodara (Baroda). The famous garba events in Vadodara are energetic and showy, and it's common for Bollywood celebrities to be in attendance. Don't expect Bollywood music though -- being the cultural capital, it's all traditional folk music!
- Find Out: When is Navaratri?
Events in Vadodara
United Way Garba is the most popular garba event in Vadodara. Nearly 40,000 dancers, plus spectators, attend it each night. What draws the huge crowd? A combination of good management, top singers, and ambiance. Famous veteran Gujarati garba and folk singer Atul Purohit is the headline performer. Proper security arrangements are also always in place. United Way was formed with a focus on community support, and the proceeds raised from the event are distributed to 140 charitable organizations across the city. Advance registrations are necessary and can be done online here.
- Where: Alembic Ground.
The huge Vadodara Navaratri Festival is a new event that was held for the first time in 2015. Singer and composer Gautam Dabir is the headline performer. He's accompanied by Anupa Pota, Shyam Ghediya, and Seema Deepak Parikh (who has performed at garba events for the past 25 years as part of the famous Chokshi sisters).
- Where: Plot behind Reliance Mega Mall on the Old Padra Road.
Maa Shakti Garba is famous for being listed in the Limca Book of World Records as the biggest garba in the world in 2004. About 40,000 dancers took part to earn the honor. It's organized by Jayesh Thakkar and his NGO Samvedan Charitable Trust. Women wearing traditional dress can enter for free.
- Where: Vadodara Cricket Academy, Vasna-Bhayli Main Road, Bhayli.
Palace Heritage Garba is promoted by the royal Gaekwad family to generate funds for their charitable causes that support women and children. The event features internationally acclaimed singers Sachin Limaye and Ashita Limaye, along with their troupe.
- Where: Navlakhi Ground, Palace Road, Moti Baug.
Events Elsewhere in Gujarat
The state's largest city, Ahmedabad, holds some fun garba events too. You'll find dozens of garba venues along the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway (S.G. Road), which connects Ahmedabad with Gandhinagar, the state capital. Red Raas is one of the most popular events. Head to the Karnavati Club or Rajpath Club for the big celebrations as well.
Navaratri Events in Mumbai
If you can't make it to Gujarat for Navaratri, garba and dandiya dance events also take place on a grand scale in Mumbai due to the large Gujarati population there. Surprisingly, some of the events have more revelers in attendance than the ones in Vadodara. Most are held in the outer northern suburb of Borivali West. Organizers are planning to arrange virtual garba and dandiya events this year due to the pandemic.