Mumbai: Gujarat is gearing up for Navratri. Vijaybhai Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat, in the presence of Nitinbhai Patel, Deputy Chief Minister; Ganpatsinh Vasava, Tourism Minister; Justice Ramayyagiri Subhash Reddy, Chief Justice of the High Court of Gujarat; Bijaben Patel, Mayor of Ahmedabad; Kamlesh Patel, Chairman, Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited; S J Haider IAS, Principal Secretary of Tourism, elected representatives, diplomats and other dignitaries inaugurated Navratri at the GMDC Grounds recently. Organized by Gujarat Tourism, Navratri will be celebrated from October 10 to 18.
At the Navratri press conference, Minister Vasava said, “In 2013, over 2.5 lakh tourists attended Navratri and in 2017 the numbers crossed 6 lakh. This is because the festival has something for everyone: Bal Nagari, Anand Nagari, Sardar Patel, Mahatma Gandhi, hundreds of stalls, and artistes from all over India.”
He said Navratri is the flagship event of the government initiated by then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and has been growing in scale year on year. Compared to the other major programs of the government like Rann Utsav, Monsoon Festival and Patang Utsav (Kite Festival), Navratri is conducted on a larger scale.
The Garba Pandal at GMDC Ground, a must-visit, is a testament to the joyous celebration of Durga Puja and Navratri in Gujarat. Ahmedabad, throughout Navratri, hosts several Dandiya celebrations but if one is looking for a spectacular concert like feel head down to the GMDC ground.
Throughout the nine days, the entire State dresses up and steps out of their houses to celebrate this auspicious and joyous festival. Navratri Festival in Gujarat is of prime cultural importance and a major tourist attraction. People from all over the world come to Gujarat to witness this colourful festival.
Gujarat is famous for its cultural heritage which is reflected in the celebrations. Every street organizes Garba and Dandiya events and the State is perfectly safe for women travellers too.
According to the State’s traffic police, permissions for over 45 ticketed events have been issued in Allahabad. If informal events like sheri garba are included, the total will go up beyond 100.
At the GMDC grounds, there are pavilions focusing on ‘Ahmedabad, a UNESCO® World Heritage City’, ‘State of Unity and the life of Sardar Vallabhai Patel’, ‘150 Years of the Mahatma’ and ‘Gir Forests’. Numerous stalls have been put up by traditional artists and craftsmen selling interesting articles in clothing, leather, wood, metal and the like.
The inauguration of the 182 m tall Sardar Vallabhai Patel Statue of Unity has been scheduled for October 31, the 143rd birth anniversary of the leader. All arrangements are ready and this will be a great tourist attraction as it will be double the height of Statue of Liberty in the US. The statue is coming up at Sadhu Bet at Kevadiya Colony near Sardar Sarovar Dam in Narmada district. A Shreshta Bharat Bhavan highlighting Sardar’s contribution to India is also part of the project.
S J Haider IAS said, “We have 17 airports in Gujarat. Under UDAN RCS, we have had excellent response and started operations on the following sectors: Ahmedabad to Bhavnagar, Surat, Mundra and to Mehsana (soon); Porbundar to Mumbai and Kandla to Mumbai flights have also started. For every one-hour distance travelled by air (500 km) there is a cap of Rs. 2500 on the ticket price making it affordable for the common man.”
Apart from flagship programs, Gujarat Tourism has new initiatives too, like Seema Darshan, a border tourism program at Nadabet near Suigam in Banaskantha district. A tourist can watch the border where Gujarat’s sea coast meets the landmass. The project demonstrates how the Border Security Force (BSF) protects the border as round-the-clock sentinels. The project has already triggered local economic activity in the Rann of Kutchh region and adjoining flamingo and wild ass sanctuaries.
In July 2018, the State government gave in-principle approval for developing more infrastructure facilities from T-Junction to Zero Point at Nadabet near Suigam. Thousands of tourists are participating in this program currently. The plan is to develop an experience on the lines of Wagah Border in Punjab.
Coastal, beach and cruise tourism is another area of focus and government is investing in building jetties in Porbundar, Somnath and Dwarka. “We are working with the union government and even exploring feasibility of deploying seaplanes,” informed Principal Secretary Haider.