Festivals of Gujarat > Trinetreshwer
There are many fairs in Gujarat
where numerous tribal people gather on special occasions to participate in the various
activities that take place at the fair, whether these are religious or secular, and to
enjoy themselves thoroughly. The Trinetreshwer Mahadev Fair at Tarnetar, near the
industrial town of Thangadh, Saurashtra, is one such fair. It is believed that the fair
has been held on this ancient site since antiquity. The fair is linked with the story of
Draupadi's swayamvar and it is said that it was at this
place that the great archer Arjuna
performed the difficult task that won him his bride. A pole was erected in the centre of
the kund and a fish was kept rotating at the top of the pole, at top speed.
The contestant was supposed to climb up, balance himself with
one foot on each of the two scales suspended there and looking at the reflection of the
fish in the kund, pierce its eye with an arrow.
Matchmaking at Tarnetar today
Today's tribal youths also visit Tarnetar, as it is
usually called, to find a suitable match, although they do not have to emulate Arjuna's
remarkable feat. Elegantly dressed in colourful dhotis, waistcoat and headcloth twisted at
an angle on their heads, they hold large colourful embroidered umbrellas which indeed have
become emblems of the fair. The umbrellas, embroidered by them for over a year, and their
hair styles, reveal their bachelor status. It is not surprising that, before the fair is
over, they usually meet the lady of their choice! Tarnetar is one of the most important
matchmaking melas. Its associations with the Mahabharat are underlined by the fact that
the area is known as Panchal Pradesh the land of the Panchal clan, to which Draupadi
belonged. The sand here is reddish in colour. This too is supposed to have been
characteristic of Draupadi's homeland.
The Shiva Temple at Tarnetar
An ancient Shiva temple stood on the
site, photographs of which still exist, although the temple has vanished. The present
temple was built on the banks of a rivulet and has a kund or reservoir in the traditional
manner. The temple is constructed in the 14th century traditional style and presents a
beautiful sight. As this is one of the most important fairs of Gujarat's Saurashtra
region, the Tarnetar fair, as it is usually called, is attended by at least 50,000 people.
The participants are tribal people belonging to various groups, such as the Koli, Bharwad,
Rabari, Khant, Kanbi, Kami, Charan, and other castes. In recent years, visitors travel
there from places as far afield as Ahmedabad. Even foreigners visit Tarnetar in growing
numbers, due to its unique character.
The Fair at Tarnetar
Over 300 stalls are set up on the fair site, selling
numerous objects and offering various types of food and refreshments. There are
exhibitions of embroidery, a cattle show, and competitive sports. The famous ras, garba
and hudo are features of the fair. Modem embellishments include a family planning stall,
merry-go-rounds and photographer's stall all of which attract happy customers. This is a
true folk fair, however, and its spirit remains unchanged. The folk music and folk dances
are the principal attractions of the fair. Tribal folk dressed in their most colourful
embroidered garments and dashing headgear, give themselves up to merrymaking. There are
also enormous circular dances, in which a hundred to two hundred women dance to the beat
of four drums backed byjodia pava or double flutes. Folk music in some form or the other
pervades the fair site. For most of the visitors the fair is an essential part of their
lives and one which they would not dream of missing. They renew old friendships and make
new ones there.
From Ahmedabad one can visit Gandhinagar, the new capital,
which is 32 kms away. The mediaeval step-well of Adalaj is on the way. Only 115 kms away
is Modhera with its 11th century Sun Temple. Sarkhej, only 12 kms from the city, is a
building complex dating back to the Sultanate. Apart from these, there are numerous places
of interest within Ahmedabad. These include the sandstone jalis or latticework screens
which were intricately carved and form part of the Sidi Saiyed mosque. Karkaria lake is a
place where people spend pleasant evenings away from the rush and bustle of the city.
Ahmedabad is at the geographical centre of
Gujarat and delightful excursions can be planned from here.
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