By Sharell Cook
In the state of 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. There are two famous garba events held there. They're energetic and showy, and it's common for Bollywood celebrities to be in attendance.
Many people claim the garba event hosted by United Way to be their favorite. Around 30,000 people attend it each night. What draws the huge crowd? A combination of good management, top singers, and ambiance. 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.
Where: Navlakhi Ground, Laxmi Vilas Palace, Rajmahal Road.
Not just the largest garba event in Vadodara, the Maa Shakti garba is listed in the Limca Book of World Records as the biggest garba in the world. Nearly 40,000 dancers took part to earn the honour in 2004.
Where: Gujarat Housing Board Ground, Near PDIL Office, Samta Road, Subhanpura.
The state's largest city, Ahmedabad, holds some renowned garba events as well. The biggest and most well known of these is the one hosted by Gujarat Tourism at the GMDC ground. It has handicrafts, fun for the kids, and a state-level garba competition. You'll also find dozens of garba venues along the Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway (S.G. Road), which connects Ahmedabad with Gandhinagar, the state capital.
If you can't make it to Gujarat for Navaratri, garba and dandiya dance events also takes 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!
The reigning event in Mumbai takes place at the Goregaon Sports Club, Link Road, Malad (in the western suburbs). If you're after glitz, glamor, and a whole lot of dancing, this is where you should head! Bollywood stars often make appearances as they come along to promote their movies. See more about Where to Celebrate Navaratri in Mumbai.