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When garba picked up cudgels against British

When garba picked up cudgels against British

Author: Ashish Vashi
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 25, 2009

"Oh Goddess, why do the British rule us so ruthlessly? They have exploited us and looted us. They have also imprisoned Gandhiji. But, Oh merciful Goddess, we are not afraid. We will destroy the shaky pillars of the British Empire; let the earth be drenched with red blood."

Though Navratri is a religious festival, it assumed a political hue during the colonial period. Many poets composed songs appealing to the goddess to destroy the evil in the form of white rulers. Many poets and publishers were booked and prosecuted for inciting people against the British.

In 1930, a poet under pseudo name of 'Padrakar' published a book titled 'Rashtriya Navratri Ras'. These songs became quite popular in Gujarat. Poet Hansraj composed a song in 1922 saying the 'hatmen' have have destroyed our farms and crafts, but now the days of the evil British rule are numbered. Poet Hansraj was blind. His song became so popular that he was booked for sedition.

In 1942, poet Chandidas brought out a book which had a garba song that upset the establishment during Quit India. "Goddess Chandika has now started her dance of destruction and this will make the British dig their own grave. England has been put on the defensive by Germany and Japan and now is the time for India to defeat it," the song said. The police seized hundreds of copies of the book and also arrested printer Kunwarji Keshavji Shah.

Mangubhai Patel, a historian and president of Gujarat Itihas Parishad, has brought out a research paper 'In the name of Goddess: Gujarati Garba and Quit India'. He says "I identified 32 garbas during my research. I found that Navratri songs popularised the message of the freedom struggle among the masses."

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