Celebrations in the Gujarati community

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Participants of the Garba-Ras event dance on the greens in front of the Legislative Building.
Can’t you just *feel* the music from here? sonali currie

Regina’s Gujarati community come together for their first festival post-pandemic

by sonali currie, contributor

It’s no secret that India is a diverse country with multiple cultures, religious faiths, and a variety of regional languages. Gujarat is one of these states, located on the western coast of India, and people native to it are referred to as Gujaratis. Since many Gujaratis have migrated across the globe, like the citizens of many other communities in India, Saskatchewan also has its fair share of Gujaratis residing here – so many, in fact, that they actually have their own organization called the Gujarati Samaj of Saskatchewan Inc., (the word “samaj” denoting society.) The non-profit organization was established in 1974 and its membership has grown over the years.

With the beautiful summer weather outside and easing of COVID restrictions, the Gujarati Samaj of Saskatchewan has begun its events for the ongoing year. The first one was held last week on July 24. The event, called Garba-Ras, took place at Wascana Park in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. In pre-pandemic times, this event was a regular indoor gathering and usually took place in October.

Each year, Gujarati’s celebrate the festival of Navratri, meaning nine nights – and so, of course, the festivities take place over nine days and nights. People wear colorful traditional clothes and dance in the streets or at the party plots. With the pandemic raging on, and many restrictions being in place, last year’s festival was postponed. When Public Health lifted the COVID restrictions in the province, the organization decided to put on the event mid-year so that members could get a chance to celebrate the festival they had been sorely missing with their friends and family.

It was an open-air event with no fees for participation. Over a thousand people attended, with participants wearing their traditional (and quite colourful) clothes. The event ran from 3:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Attendees engaged in a particular form of cultural dance called “garba.” The dance routine is mainly performed in groups, where the members form a circle and move around in a specific rhythm, coupled with hand gestures that support the forward and backward movements. If you’re new to this dance form, chances are you will get a grasp of it as you join the circle. The movements are free-flowing and in-sync with the different traditional songs or music. Depending on the chosen music, the pace of the dance can either slow down or turn up-beat. The dancing was made even more resplendent by the energy and enthusiasm of the participants, and DJ Vaibhav Thakkar artfully maneuvering the music console.

Food is a major part of any community event, and this gathering was no exception. To beat the heat, participants were asked to carry drinking water bottles with them, which were able to be filled with provided water. Food from two popular Regina eateries, India Palace Restaurant and Northgate Bakery, were available at the venue, so that attendees were able to purchase traditional food and drinks. It’s worth noting, however, that no alcohol was served at the event.

Shivangi Jani, who attended the event said, “Organizing such events provides an opportunity to meet people from your community and give a sense of belonging to your roots. Even though I have been away from Gujarat for quite some time, I felt Gujarat was around me. After more than a year of the pandemic, this event is a source of refreshment and relaxation”.

The Gujarati Samaj of Saskatchewan will be back later this year with the actual Navratri celebration at Evraz Place in October, subject to any residual public health guidelines.

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