Garba-Dandiya, Local Food and Visit to Lakshmi Vilas Palace

Over 50 foreign diplomats were on a tour to Vadodara on Saturday to get a glimpse of the famed Navratri festival in Gujarat. The contingent was part of the sixth day celebrations of the nine-day-long Navratri festival.

It is on the sixth day that devotees worship Goddess Katyayni, the sixth incarnation of Goddess Durga. The Navratri celebrations in Gujarat are also known for musical gatherings, with people from all age groups participating in garba-dandiya.

External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar, who was in Gujarat, also joined the foreign envoys in these celebrations. “It is a matter of pride that we have come here with officials of different countries. As the Navratri festival is on, they will spend the day enjoying festivities. They are excited to see the development here,” Jaishankar tweeted, after meeting delegates and ambassadors of several countries.

Later in the evening, the EAM performed aarti and took part in Navratri festivities as well.

As the world inches closer to normalcy in the post-pandemic era, the festivities that were a mellow affair in the past few years are back in full steam. The group of diplomats were enthralled as they soaked themselves in the festivities and shook a leg on the irresistible musical beats during Garba.

Danish Ambassador Freddy Svane thanked Jaishankar for organising this memorable visit to “great, good and green Gujarat”. Russian envoy Denis Alipov said: “I played Garba for the first time and enjoyed it. It is a very beautiful festival of Gujarat and India.”

Afghan envoy Farid Mamundzay thanked Gujaratis for the warm welcome. “I am feeling very good after coming to Gujarat and meeting people from the state,” he said.

The Ministry of External Affairs keeps organising such tours for diplomats taking them to various parts of the country with an intent to introduce them to India’s diverse culture and heritage.

Jaishankar also took the visiting diplomatic contingent to the 18th century architectural marvel Lakshmi Vilas Palace in Vadodara. The palace, constructed by erstwhile Gaekwad rulers of Vadodara, is believed to be one of the largest residences in the world.

Spread over 500 acres, Lakshmi Vilas Palace is four times the size of Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the British Monarch.

Mamundzay, in a tweet, remembered the long historical ties of Afghans with Gujarat. Appreciating the visit to the palace, he said, “It was great to see Maharaja Sayajirao’s contribution to the development of Vadodara in the 18th century. During his reign, many Afghans or Pathans came to live in this historic city. Every inch of India offers a unique blend of history. Thank you Vadodara for the respect and hospitality. May Gujarat flourish, prosper and progress.”

Such cultural excursions assume relevance in light of the fact that diplomats get a slice of the varied cultural milieu of India and become brand ambassadors for India when they go back to their respective countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has highlighted this idea of exposing unexplored India to the world, by taking major official events and leaders of foreign countries away from the national capital or metro cities, to different parts of the country, showcasing the impressive art and cultural heritage of India.

As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi used to invite the big diplomatic-business community in Gujarat to take part in the Navratri festival. In one such event in 2009, Modi got a delegation of Delhi-based diplomats from 35 countries, including China, Japan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and North Korea, to fly down to Ahmedabad. In 2016, diplomats from about a dozen countries visited Ahmedabad to participate in the Navratri festival.

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