Do the dandiya, dude!

Updated: Sep 26 2003, 05:30am hrs
If youre heading for apnu Amdavad this weekend, youd better carry your dancing shoes along. For, starting today and going upto October 5, Gujarats capital along with the rest of the state is in the grips of navratri fever. Which means that hardly anybody in the state will be getting their beauty sleep, busy as they will be doing the dandiya touted as the worlds longest dance festival, as well as one which leaves revellers bleary-eyed. And with good reason it kicks off every day in the evenings and winds up only in the wee hours of the next morning! By far, the most popular and best managed dandiyas in Ahmedabad are the four organised by SOI, a local body which has been organising dandiyas every year for the past five. This time, one SOI dandiya will be held at the University Grounds on Drive-in Road, two at the twin venues of Rajpath Club, and one more at Maninagar.

Happily enough, you dont have to be either Gujarati or blessed with twinkle toes to take part in the festivities. Many a non-resident, in town for work during the navratri bonanza, changes out off his/her business suit once done for the day, and thereafter, heads out into the city to take in its quintessential charm and vibrancy first-hand. And thats because the festival has been specially tailored to charm the visitor. Take, for instance, the dandiya at Drive-in Road. By far the biggest and the best of the lot, its spread over a mammoth 10 lakh square feet area. You can pick up a pass available for a reasonable

Rs 75, and pavilion tickets for Rs 150. But if youre less into dancing and more into feasting on the sights and sounds of ethnic Gujarat, the tourist ticket priced at Rs 300 is the one for you. It earns you entry to a separate pavilion abuzz with cultural entertainment from Rajasthans puppet shows to traditional garbas done by professional garba troupes (quite eager to teach you to shake a leg as well!) to demonstrations of mehendi designs! And in case you didnt have time to shop around for traditional Gujju handicrafts during the day, there are small handicraft huts right within the premises where you can shop till you drop.

Stalls within the premises offer traditional Gujju food, ie, shudhh shakhahari bhojan (pure vegetarian food), so do prepare to savour spicy-cum-sweet vegetable curries, puris, dal, roti, papad, chaach (butter milk) and aamras! Interestingly, the snacks are more cosmopolitan usually of the chola puri/bhatura, dosa, chinese noodles variety. But together, even as they showcase Gujarats culinary heritage, they also save you a trip downtown for a bite.

Best of all, this year, the Narendra Modi-governments Vibrant Gujarat global investor summit is coinciding with navratris. And, the SOI Drive-in dandiya has been chosen as the official garba venue by the Gujarat Tourism department. Which means that not only Mr Modi & Co are hard-selling the navratri festival as one of the USPs of the state, you can probably network with some corporate Indian and international corporate honchos too. So alongwith those dancing shoes, do keep the visiting cards on hand! Call your local travel agent and get a pass for the SOI dandiya at Drive-in.

Time: every evening from Sept 26 - Oct 4, 8 pm onwards.