The Bhavnath Mahadev temple is a shrine ensconced in myths and legends of the Puranic era. The Shiva linga here is said to have emerged of its own divine intention. Reportedly, when Shiva and Parvati were traveling over the Girnar Hills their divine garment fell over the present Mrigi Kund, making this place an auspicious site for Shiva worshippers. Even today, the naga bavas are known to bathe in the holy Mrigi Kund before joining the Mahashivaratri procession. The fair itself is so ancient that its precise origins are unknown.
Dang Darbar honours the tradition of rulers and other heads of villages gathering for durbars during the British rule over India. The tradition continues today in the Dangs, a tribal dominated district, as many of the former Rajas and Naiks are still accorded status unlike the princely families whose title and privy purses were abolished. Dang Darbar takes place in the Ahwa of the Dang district in the Saputara Hills. Tribal dances of the region are spectacular to watch. People move in concentric circles holding each other by the waist, dancing to the beat of percussion and wind instruments. Many musical instruments are typical of this district. All men wear lion clothes with a waistcoat and coloured turban. Women wear sarees and blouses with heavy silver jewellery.
Chitra Vichitra Fair
The festival begins on the eve of the new moon when the women gather at the river and mourn for their dead through the night. The next day the fair sets off with a generous splashing of dazzling colors and drumming. The tribal men’s costume generally consists of a blue shirt, dhoti and a red or saffron fenta or turban. The woman don ghagharas which have a circumference of as much as 20 yards, and are covered from head to feet with ornate and heavy silver jewellery, and sometime also beautifully knitted rafia jewellery made from pale yellow or dyed crimson grass. They also use liquid kumkum or vermilion to color their cheeks and lips a brilliant red, while their eyes are outlined vibrantly with kajal.
Every group visiting the fair carries its own drum, so that the atmosphere comes alive with a nonstop beat of drumming. The women sing folk songs in shrill choruses, and everyone dances near the main temple. Over a hundred stalls hold food and drink, and sweets of various kinds. Silver ornaments and household items are out for sale. There is also a giant wheel and a merry-go-round. The dancing and drumming continue for hours until everyone is left exhausted. The fair is held a fortnight after Holi, around the month of March-April. It starts on the eve of the new moon (called Amavas), the time when the wheat crop is ready for harvest.
Each year the Chitra Vichitra Fair plays itself out within the limits of the village Gunbhakhari in the border area of the Sabarkantha district adjoining Rajasthan, 32 kms away from the nearest railway station of Khed Brahma. The main temple of the fair is situated on a picturesque site called the Triveni Sangam, the sacred confluence of the three rivers Sabarmati, Akul and Vyakul, amid the foothills of the Aravalis.
The name of the fair is derived from two brothers Chitravirya and Vichitravirya, sons of King Shantanu, and step brothers of Bhishma, from the story of the Mahabharata. There is a belief that they had settled here and were cured of their diseases by the waters of this site.
Kavant, the gathering arena for a tribal group since time immemorial. It is a gathering of the Rathva community to extemporously recreate the joy of existence and life., it is a sheer delight to watch the exuberance of Rathva men and women dressed in their distinctive finery gradually congregating to sing and dance, discuss marriages and liaisons, barter goods and services all rising to a grand crescendo of gaiety and high energy which almost draws one forth into the mesmerizing world of Rathva culture. The older generation meanwhile set themselves down with their paraphernalia of snacks and condiments to muse about times gone by and matters of import regarding the future of their tribal ethos. It usually begins on the third day after Holi.
The village of Kavant is located in the heart of the Rathva homeland near the town of Chhota Udepur about a 100 kms from Vadodara which has an air port, a rail link and is a major city. There are two interesting heritage properties which are ideal to stay in near Kavant, the royal palaces at Chhota Udepur and Jambughoda.
The Tarnetar Mela covers a large part of the Tarnetar village with a huge number of stalls put up to sell beautiful local handicrafts unavailable elsewhere, along with ethnic jewelery, statues of deities and traditional attire with tiny mirrors embroidered into the clothing. There are also merry-go-round rides, photographers stalls, magic shows and tattoo artists who attract a large variety of visitors.
Legend says that this fair has been held here since antiquity. Its origin is linked with the story of Draupadi’s swayamvar, where the great archer Arjun performed the difficult task of piercing the eye of a rotating fish with an arrow, by only looking at its reflection in the water. Through this feat he won his bride Draupadi.
Historically speaking, this festival tradition is believed to have begun 200-250 years ago. The fair is held on the grounds of the temple of Triniteshwar Mahadev, which means "the three-eyed God." The old temple that used to stand in Tarnetar was ruined, but a new one was built by the Gaekwads of Vadodara in the 19th century, and is now the focal point of the festival. It stands on the bank of a rivulet and opens into a beautiful kund. It is locally believed that this site used to be the original course of the Ganga river at some point in history, so a dip in the temple tank is considered by pilgrims to be as auspicious as a swim in the holy Ganga.
The Bhadrapad fair is held in the center of the Ambaji village just outside the temple premises. The village is visited by the largest number of sanghas [pilgrim groups] during the fair. Many of them go there on foot, which is particularly enriching as it happens immediately after the monsoon, when the landscape is rich with greenery, streams are full of sparkling water and the air is fresh.
During their stay at Ambaji, pilgrims spend their time in prayers and devotion and visiting other shrines nearby. Some of them also attend the readings of the Saptashati: 700 verses in praise of the Goddess Ambaji. In addition to the local shops, temporary stalls are erected selling eatables, toys, pictures and statues of idols, amulets, bamboo articles, etc. Merry-go-rounds and ferri wheels are set up for recreation, and acrobatics are performed.
On the night of the full moon, the sanghas also arrange performances of bhavai: a traditional and popular folk-drama, and garbas are sung in the chachar chowk, using simple musical instruments like pakhwaj, hungal and jhanjh. The Bhabrapad fair is held at Ambaji which is in the Danta Taluka of Banaskantha district, near the Gujarat-Rajasthan border. The walk from the bus station to the temple is less than one kilometer, under a roofed walkway. Direct buses are available from many places, including Mount Abu (45 kms away), Palanpur (65 kms away), Ahmedabad and Idar.
Tens of thousands of donkeys, as well as hundreds of camels, adorned in an array of colors and bright embellishments are brought here for the largest animal fair in Gujarat, where they are traded on the fair grounds at the sangam tirtha. People generally arrive here on tractors, buses, chhakdas, camels, jeeps and other varied means of transport. For some this place is as divine as the sangam in Allahbad, and many communities even consider this fair more important than Diwali. Seven holy rivers mix waters here: the Vatrak merges with the Meshwo, Hathmati, Shedhi, Majum and Khari before it then meets the Sabarmati, so the locals call it saptasangam (meeting of seven). This fair is held during Kartika Purnima, the full moon night of the month of Kartik in the Hindu calendar, corresponding roughly to the month of November. It lasts for five days.