My warmest greetings to everyone as the auspicious Navratri begin. For the next 9 days, people across India, especially Gujarat, shall immerse themselves in celebrations that mark one of our most important festivals and also the beginning the festive season.
Navratri is central to the cultural identity of Gujaratis. Garba and Raas form a centuries old tradition going back to the time of Lord Krishna -- it is the cultural heritage of every Gujarati. In the coming days if you go to any part of Gujarat you will see people, be it young or old, dancing to the tunes of wonderful Gujarati folk music as part of the Navratri celebrations.
During Navratri we bow our heads and seek the blessings of Jagat Janani Maa. While civilisations around the world have conceptualised the Almighty in the male form, ours is the only civilisation that celebrates and venerates Shakti in the female form -- be it Jagat Janani Maa Jagadamba, Maa Lakshmi, Maa Saraswati among the many other Goddesses.
After I assumed office 11 years ago, I have often wondered why this unique festival is restricted to Gujarat. Why not enable its vibrancy to go beyond Gujarat and draw the entire world to come to this State? With these thoughts in mind, we envisioned the annual Vibrant Gujarat Navratri Festival. It is heartening to see so many tourists, both from India and abroad, visiting Gujarat during these nine days. In fact, the popularity of our Garbas has transcended Gujarat’s shores -- there are at least 500 cities around the world where this festival is celebrated with great pomp and show!
Festivals like Navratri are now giving a strong impetus to tourism and particularly in giving the poorest of the poor additional sources of livelihood. With more tourists coming to Gujarat being drawn to our cultural heritage, our handicraft artisans are receiving a strong boost. Those who are involved with the hospitality sector, including transport operators, have begun earning a higher income and this has lit the lamp of prosperity in their homes.
Many of you will be fasting through these 9 days. I recall that during Teacher’s Day celebrations two years ago, a little girl had asked me about my fasting during Navratri. Yes, I have been fasting during Navratri for over 35 years now. This fast is never to seek anything but an act of self-purification. Fasts such as this have been a source of strength, power and inspiration for me over the last many years.
I am attaching a small Garba that I penned and a poem in which I offer my tribute to Maa Jagadamba. I hope you will enjoy them.
Once again, my greetings on Navratri.