Non-resident Gujaratis add colour to Ambaji festivities


Palanpur (Gujarat) : Among the nearly 300,000 devotees who have come to the Ambaji temple here in the past four days to witness Durgashtami celebrations, are 3,000 non-resident Gujaratis who fly down at this time of the year to offer prayers and celebrate.

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Devotees have come from the US, Australia, Canada, Kenya, the Netherlands and other European countries.

“Approximately 3,000 NRGs have come to the temple town for Navratri but Durgashtami has a special significance for most of them,” Ambaji temple administrator P.K. Jadeja said.

Many of them participate in the havan, or fire ritual, in the afternoon, said Jadeja.

“Two decades ago we suffered heavy losses in our tours and travels business. But it was Goddess Amba who helped us weather the storm. Now we have made it a habit to come here almost every alternate year,” said Prahladbhai Patel, 42, from California. He is originally from Porbandar.

“We are more interested in completing our religious rituals rather than enjoying garba. Garba for us is sacred and not just a means of enjoyment,” said Purshotam Vyas, 50, from Auckland, New Zealand, who is originally from Valam village in Mehsana district.

“How can we forget the favour showered on us by Mother Ambe?” said Mukund Patel from Anand now working in Dell Corporation in the US.

“I come here once in four years along with my wife and four-year-old son Manish,” Patel said adding: “We were without children and the doctors had ruled out any possibility of my wife Hansa conceiving. It was a miracle that we got a son.”

Maganbhai Patel, 49, from Nairobi, Kenya, said: “We raised a temple for the mother in Nairobi but the enthusiasm we find here in the presence of Mother Amba is inexplicable.”

There are several NRGs who have been climbing up a two-kilometre steep incline up Gabbar mount, starting at 5 a.m. everyday. They also attend arti in the evening and participate in garba at night – programmes that go on for nine days.

“As and when we are in India we do not miss the opportunity to play garba in the benign presence of Mother Amba,” says Komal Thakar from Charlesville, Australia.

Originally from Kheda, Bhailal Nukkum, 45, and his wife Rekhaben, 39, who are settled in London, said they have been regularly participating in the havan ceremony for the past 15 years.

“It is really a great moment of my life,” said Nayankumar Bhatt, 39, who lives in Paris.