Drumming up magic

Nisha Jha & R Vasudevan
Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The Saputara Monsoon Festival, currently underway in Gujarat, is a cultural extravaganza packed with folk and tribal dances, craft and interactive activities

We were right in the middle of the parade, walking with a contingent of drummers. Our feet involuntarily started to move to the electrifying beat. The drummers were now performing some acrobatic feats synchronised to the rhythm. The mists had just cleared leaving behind cool refreshing atmosphere.

There were contingents of Garba and tribal dancers. It was heart-warming to see school children participating with parade along with a contingent of foreign students studying in Gujarat.

It was magical and we could not believe it was only the evening before that we had reached Saputara where the monsoon clouds had darkened the sky. The town itself wore a festive look with coloured lights along the main streets and the illuminated fountain in the main round-about. 

The mere mention of travelling to Gujarat sets our hearts racing and often conjures up images of folk dances, traditional festivals, colourful dresses, age-old places of worship, intricate jewellery, mouth-watering dishes and more recently, the tall Statue of Unity.

When we visited Saputara in Dang district of Gujarat, we were pleasantly surprised to see that lush green mountains with their dense forests and gushing waterfalls are other characteristics that ought to be added to the above list. Had we not experienced it, we would not have believed it.

The icing on the cake was the monsoon season. The Sahyadris, in general, are best enjoyed during the monsoons. This is when the brown, dry mountains give way to the pleasant green plants and trees. The rain water forms rivulets on the top of the hills and falls along the sides, giving rise to multiple waterfalls.

And the cherry on the top is the Saputara Monsoon Festival, a cultural extravaganza lasting a whole month, brought to us by Gujarat Tourism. 

Saputara Monsoon Festival 2019
This year is the ninth edition of the Monsoon Festival. It kickstarted on August 10, with a cultural parade. The dancers came from Gujarat and also from other parts of India. There were folk and tribal dances including the mind-blowing drum dance. The fest is on till September 9.

The main street of the town transforms into one big stage for the parades and market. In addition, various programmes are held at many locations. The most important one is at the big white dome, near the main fountain circle. The fountain itself attracts attention as it is beautifully lit with ever changing coloured lights. 

The cultural programmes are carefully curated to bring the best of Dang region in one place. The daily programme includes patriotic songs, terracotta exhibition in Artists Village, comedy show, live orchestra with the dome open for folk, freestyle or Garba dancing, special events during religious festivals and so on. On certain days, music and songs are played by a professional DJ on popular requests and there are also Karaoke evenings!

There is also an art and crafts display on the walls of the dome. The display of larger-than-life masks made of papier mache is not to be missed. For kids, there are magic shows, aquarium, painting workshops, quiz programmes, interactive games, fire eaters, mask wearing cartoon characters and people on stilt for those funny selfies. 

Other activities include exhibitions, adventure activities, food festival, interactive games, competitions, flash mobs and much more.

On the last day of the festival, there will be special programmes on monsoon, Antakshari and a closing ceremony.  

What else to do in and around Saputara
Saputara being the only hill station, Gujarat offers a lot more for those who want to experience monsoon to the fullest. The nature lovers may drive to the nearby viewpoints or drive out on the hilly roads, criss-crossing the river Ambika, to nearby villages, nature parks, botanical gardens and several scenic waterfalls, which become more spectacular in the monsoon. There are also religious places like Shabari Dham and Pampa Sarovar where Shabari waited for Shri Ram, as per the Ramayan.

Within Saputara, there is a nice museum displaying tribal artefacts which is quite interesting and also an Artist Village, where a few artists and sculptors have made their home. They  display their creations. There are also a few well-manicured gardens to relish when the weather is clear.

Last but not the least, a walk around the Saputara lake in the morning is quite invigorating and leaves one with the right mood to enjoy the day. There is also boating on the lake and ropeway in the hills, but these were closed for the monsoon. That’s for another day!

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