The Tarnetar Fair is a fun, colourful and eclectic celebration of the ethnic folk-dance, music, costumes and the performing arts by the young tribal men and women of Gujarat seeking partners for marriage. Happening from September 1 – 4 this year, this festival acts as the precursor for the nine days of Navratri that will follow in the next month.
Whether you’re on the lookout for a partner or not, the Tarnetar Fair is a one-of-a-kind revelry where the quirky costumes, shiny ornaments and free-spirited movements of the dancers is sure to spell-bind you. The most popular kind of dance-form is Raas, in which about a couple of hundred dancers clack their sticks against each other.
Held in the town of Tarnetar, about 8km from the town of Thangadh, in Surendranagar district, legend goes that the fair has been happening here since forever. It began as a tribute to Draupadi’s Swayamvar, when the great archer Arjuna won her hand after shooting the eye of a rotating fish with an arrow, by looking at its reflection in the water.
The grounds of the old temple of Triniteshwar Mahadev is the focal point of the festival. The locals also believe that this is where the Ganga originated at some point in history; therefore, a dip in the temple tank is considered auspicious.
Other attractions in the fair include the famous circular folk dance called rahado by the Rabari women of Zalawad. As are the numerous singing sadhus that are accompanied by folk instruments. Then there are a huge number of stalls selling beautiful local handicrafts such as the exquisite embroidered umbrellas, along with ethnic jewellery, statues of deities and traditional attire with tiny mirrors embroidered onto the clothing. There are also giant Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds, magic shows and tattoo artists who attract a large number of travellers from all walks of life.