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Indian Subcontinent >> India >> Gujarat >> Culture of Gujarat

Culture of Gujarat

Gujaratis are usually conservative Hindus or orthodox Muslims living in a society that rigidly follows traditions and social orders. What binds the communities together is a common passion for business and making money. The Gujaratis are renowned for their business acumen, sharpened through centuries of maritime trade and commerce and an inherent ability to do business. The native Gujarati has spread to many parts of the world - notably East and South Africa, UK and USA in search of new business opportunities. It is this spirit of entrepreneurship that has made Gujarat one of the most industrialised states in India.

The Gujarati remains very close to his roots and preserves his cultural identity, wherever he lives. Music, dance, folk theatre, arts and crafts are integral parts of daily life and nowhere else is culture and crafts such a living, breathing entity as in Gujarat. Called the 'Land of Festivals and Fairs’, Gujarat celebrates as many as 3,500 of them in different parts of the state each year. These festivals and fairs revolve around an occasion - be it to welcome a new season, celebrate a bountiful harvest or simply participate in a religious festival or mythological event.

The festivals and fairs, weddings and anniversaries are all celebrations that showcase the rich musical and dance traditions of the region. Baiju Bawra, Tana Riri, Narsinh Mehta, Pt. Onkarnath Thakur, Ustads Faiyaz Khan and Rahim Khan and many others are legendary musicians from Gujarat. The dances of Gujarat owe much to the local folk culture. The best known among these are the Ras, Garba and dandiya and folk theatre called Bhavai. Most of the art traditions trace back their origin to the ancient period of Lord Krishna.

Gujarati crafts have refashioned an entire country’s taste and spawned a number of clones. Brightly coloured and intricately patterned, they are reasonably priced and make excellent keepsakes of a trip to Gujarat. The textile specialities of Gujarat are the extremely fine ikat, panetar, tanchoi or brocade, mashru and the vividly patterned Patola and Gharchola silk sarees hand woven from tie and dye threads in patterns handed down from generation to generation; ‘zari’ (gold thread embroidery) on silk fabric; block prints using only natural dyes made from vegetables, plants and stones; minutely patterned tie and dye (‘bandhini’) work in myriad colours in cotton and silks; intricate detailed embroidery using tiny mirrors, cowries and beads.

Beadwork is also fashioned into hand fans, wall pictures, cushion covers and purses. In the semi-arid regions of the state, animal husbandry is the main livelihood of the rural population. From the wool of goats, sheep and camels are created an unusual array of coarse blankets and gaily-coloured shawls. Other specialities include silver and gold jewellery, traditional tribal crafts like dokra craft (metalwork); carved and painted ethnic furniture in silver and blue and gold and maroon.

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