Why should Indian Muslims and Christians be barred from taking part in the Garba?

Published: October 9, 2015
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Special ‘racist’ measures will be taken to ensure that no non-Hindu gains an entry into the Garba events. PHOTO: REUTERS

I vividly remember the time I spent during my school and college days with Ghulam Farid, one of my best friends. He was like family to me. We have, however, not been able to catch up ever since I moved to Delhi and he remained in Rajasthan taking care of his family business.

We would celebrate our respective festivals together every year. On Eidul Azha he would always invite me to his place, and I would relish the scrumptious biryani and mutton curry cooked by his gracious mother. On Diwali, I used to go to his shop and offer him sweets. And on Holi, I would turn his face red with gulal. When he got engaged, I was the first person to accompany him to a nearby town where his fiancée lived. Such was the friendship we shared.

Every year Ghulam and I would eagerly await the nine-day festival of Navratri to begin so we could play garba or dandiya. It is the time when girls and boys, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion, dance and play dandiya with each other to rhythmic songs synonymous to the tune. The songs are rendered in honour of the Hindu goddess Ambica, but with time the music has undergone radical change as traditional songs are mostly laced with remix these days.

Hence, thanks to our cosmopolitan culture I, like other Indians, have been blessed enough to partake in the company of Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Jain friends.

But today, attempts are being made to sabotage and subvert this cosmopolitan culture, the idea of India, trust, friendship and brotherhood that has been an integral part of our country since time immemorial. Efforts are on to play me off against Ghulam, my brother and sow the seeds of hatred amongst us so that they can reap political benefits. People are being bumped off for merely eating beef, for their belief and the way of their life.

In yet another deplorable diktat, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has barred non-Hindus, including Muslims and Christians from taking part in Garba events in residential societies across Gujarat, in a bid  “to stop incidents of ‘love jihad’, where Muslim boys lure and marry Hindu girls.”

VHP’s volunteers will keep a close watch at the Garba venues across Gujarat to see whether non-Hindus try to enter the venue and those who do and want to enjoy the Garba, will be given an option to ‘embrace Hinduism’ at the venue.

Special ‘racist’ measures will be taken to ensure that no non-Hindu gains an entry into the Garba events. For instance, all the males entering the venue will have to sprinkle Gaumutra (cow urine) on themselves and apply tilak on their forehead. And if a person hesitates, he will not be allowed to go inside.

Gujarat VHP’s general secretary Ranchhod Bharwad said,

“We warn all the non-Hindus, be it Muslims or Christians, to refrain from entering the garba venues across the state. Such Hindu festivals are used as a tool by Muslim boys to lure our girls. Such a ban is necessary to stop love jihad incidents,”

“Those Muslims, who want to enjoy Garba can only do so after converting to Hinduism. VHP will make all the arrangements at the venue if he wishes to do so. But, we are sure that no one will show the courage and will eventually drop his plan,” he added.

This reveals the height of racism, discrimination and hatred. We Indians do not even realise how racist we are. Are we going to be like Nazi Germany where Jews were segregated and forced to live in ghettoes?

Are we going to follow the former official policy of South Africa where political, economic and legal discrimination against people who were not whites was rampant?

Such incidents remind me of India’s horrible past when Dalits were barred from entering temples and treated in the most inhuman way.

The truth is that never in my life have I come across a single Indian Muslim who was abusive, cunning or a crook. Indian Muslims are one of the most soft-spoken, humble, well-mannered, honest and hardworking people. The truth is a section of the society is trying to push them against the wall, punishing them for the crimes they never committed.

Why should they be persecuted for the misdeeds committed by some warlords hundreds of years ago?

Why rake up old issues that must be forgotten? This is the 21st century and alas, we seem to be living in the past and by doing so, we are sabotaging our present and the future that, if things continued the way they are, looks ominous to me.

It is a pity that even in the 21st century we have not been able to find a lasting solution to our social issues. All men and women are born equal and they must not be discriminated against along the lines of religion, caste, sex, creed and colour. This is the only way we can save this world from its perdition.

We must reunite the hearts that have been torn apart, for integration, not segregation is the need of the hour. Let there be the kingdom of God, instead of Satan’s in this world. Let there be peace in our words, thoughts and actions.

Besides, those talking of ‘love Jihad’ do not even understand the true meaning and spirit of love and brotherhood that is still sustaining this world amidst all this madness.

Love is a beautiful feeling that happens between two individuals. This is something one cannot plan, for it just happens.

Verily, love does occur during Garba. For I first discovered Sonam (name changed) during one of the Navratri nights, while we were playing dandiya. Oh my God, she was gorgeous. I could not take my eyes off her large gazelle eyes and we knew we were in for something very special.

In Shakespeare’s words,

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!

For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

When I first saw her, I was not aware of her religion and this did not matter to me in the first place. I did not care if she was a Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. I did not even ask her name. What is in a name?

Later, I came to know that she was a Jain, a pure vegetarian.

Today when Sonam is not in this world anymore, and has left for her heavenly abode, her words still ring in my ears.

During one of our rendezvous at a temple, whilst Sonam was in my arms, she asked me the following question.

“Thou wish to marry me, but how is it going to work out between us? For I am a pure vegetarian and thou, a Punjabi, who cannot live without meat,” she said with a faint smile on her face.

Sonam would often educate me how animals feel pain and just because they cannot express it; we should not take advantage of their vulnerability. Needless to say, I was moved by her words.

“I will do anything to be with thee, my love. Henceforth, I shall shun meat and become a pure vegetarian.”

On hearing this, she burst into peals of laughter and began singing Jagjit’s Singh’s gazal,

Mere jaise ban jaaoge, jab ishq tumhe ho jayega. Divaaro se takaraoge, jab ishq tumhe ho jaayega

(You will become like me when you fall in love. You will bang your head against the walls, when you fall in love). 

At this, my lips, gave her a tender kiss.

“Nay, thou dost not need to quit non-veg for me. Do it only when thou art convinced of its moral righteousness. For now, I accept thee the way thou art, a meat eating Punjabi. You know why?”

“Why?”

“I love you.”

Sapan Kapoor

Sapan Kapoor

A history buff and India-based journalist, the author has worked with the Press Trust of India. He blogs at sehar-anawakening.blogspot.in/ and tweets as @dRaconteur.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • 19640909rk .

    Dear Sapan, I am Hindu from Vadodara and never attended Garba. Is it the end of the world?Recommend

  • Robert2011GB

    Warlords from hundreds of years ago?

    Has he heard of ISIS or Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

    Muslim terrorism is deadly and is happening now.

    How can non-Muslims be blamed for being afraid of Islam?Recommend

  • Vinod

    The problem is Muslims fall in love with Hindu girls and then want to convert them to Islam.Recommend

  • Not Sapan Kapoor

    The question should be is that why Muslims are so intent on attending garba and its only Muslim boys,not Muslim girls…

    They will not go to temple,they will not sing Vande Mataram,they will not attend religious festivals of others..They would make an issue if Ganesh procession passes through their streets…

    But yeah,they need to attend garba because its a human rights issue if a Muslim doesnt attend garba…even worse than apartheid as suggested by you…Recommend

  • http://thoughtsandotherthing.blogspot.fr/2015/09/vegetarianism-ritual-killings-et-al.html Supriya Arcot

    And then politicians / fanatics / extremists came and …Recommend

  • Bana Post

    OMG Not againRecommend

  • Kushal

    This is a Hindu festival and hindus have every right to make it exclusive. Tell me Mr. Sapan Kapoor why don’t you react in the same way when non muslims are not allowed in Mecca and Medina?Recommend

  • liberalPapi

    Let us ponder some question Mr. Sapan…
    This country people say they are united….but the fact is they have more caste than any other and this has often led to killing unlike in India…how does it sound like shia/sunni/tableeghi/barelvi/wahabi/sufi/eh-le-hadees/quadyani/ahmedi/goffy/mickey mouse etc..etc…
    Its there garba..organizers will decide whom to call and whom not to call
    In my state everybody is open to do garba…shia/sunni/christian/hindu/sikh/jain etc..etc….so that means we are communal..
    Why do u need to prove your secularism…
    Recommend

  • Please Answer

    Hmm interesting!!
    Why shouldn’t someone be not be allowed to follow someone else’s faith and rituals ?

    Btw I’m still baffled by the question, Why shouldn’t someone (Ahmadis) be allowed to follow THEIR OWN FAITH AND RITUALS??Recommend

  • USC_Trojan

    Swapan, You disingenuously did not mention to the readers that Garbha is about worshipping Hindu Goddess Durga…people are singing songs praising the Goddess while circling the idol of Durga….Idol Worshipping is ‘haram’ (prohibited) in Islam and it’s one of its basic tentets…Why would any good Muslim pray to a idol and commit. Haram ? Especially when it involves music and dance with women while praising Hindu Gods? Recommend

  • abhi

    So you and your muslim friend used to attend Garba. Can you also remember if your friend’s sisters and mothers were allowed to attend Garba?Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Organizers of events have the option to impose dress codes. I’ve been to events where you weren’t allowed in without a suit, or were rejected for wearing sandals, not shoes.

    Muslims and Christians can get it provided they obey the dress code.

    Unfortunately, there is a no law against dress codes anywhere in the world.

    All this noise for nothing.Recommend

  • Krranti 2020

    Islam prohibits dancing and singing. So we want to protect Islam.Recommend

  • stars

    Sapan babu because muslims & media shout communal agenda when Hindus ask for muslim participation in yoga, muslims & media shout communal agenda when Hindus ask for muslim participation in surya namaskar, muslims & media shout communal agenda when Hindus ask for muslim participation in singing Vande Mataram but now suddenly muslim men want to participate in a religious festival celebrating Maa Durga. Really? You can’t have it both ways. You wrote “Why should they be persecuted for the misdeeds committed by some warlords hundreds of years ago?” Wow here you are accepting that muslim warlords committed crime but when Hindus point it out the seculars of India start breast-beating. Why did you change the name of Aurangzeb blah blah blah. Sorry Mr Kapoor Hindus have every right to permit or prohibit anyone they feel like in their religious festivals/functions.Recommend

  • ab1990

    just like hindus are barred in saudi and vatican from building temples ? I would say every good.

    Hypocrisy is another name of the world’s two biggest religions.Recommend

  • Milind

    Mr author did Muslim worship idol if yes than they are most wel come other wise give me answer did your article worth it here Recommend

  • Vinod

    If sonam had been Muslim you would have to convert to IslamRecommend

  • Nomad1412

    Dear Sapan, I am a Christian. Why on earth would I attend a garba?Recommend

  • ajeet

    Its a Hindu family function and why should Muslim men be allowed? Why aren’t Muslim women coming to the garba? Recommend

  • Raj – USA

    No one would have any objection to muslims attending Garba and dancing if they bring along with them their family and female folks. Muslims do not bring their wives, sisters or daughters and want to attend Garba. It is only muslim boys and men who want to come to Garba. When it comes to singing Vande Mataram, some muslims oppose it vehemently and say their religion prohibits it. Why attend hindu festival that sings praises of hindu gods, sing along with the hindus praising hindu gods and dance to the music?

    Hindus have welcomed muslims to pray in their hindu god Ganesh’s temple because muslims come there for prayer and not any other devious reason, and the muslims also bring their female family members with them.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/963775/no-space-no-issue-mumbai-temple-allows-muslims-to-offer-eid-prayers/Recommend

  • Critical

    I guess Sonam must be the most luckiest girl in the worldRecommend

  • Animal Farm

    If Sonam marries Sapan Kapoor…Will she be called as Sonam KapoorRecommend

  • Ajay

    The hindu culture is not as narrow minded as these people are making it. Actually these ideas are only reaction to the sectarian and self imposing style of religion followed by Muslims and Christians in India. The Christians are accused of unethical conversion of hindu natives of poor section by inducements. The Muslims think respecting ancient Hindu traditions will weaken their religion. The muslims force any Hindu girl marrying a muslim to convert. So naturally the hindus try to retaliate and this is one example. Hindus generally respect all religions and treat different faith as different path to achieve the same divine goal which is spirituality. Recommend

  • The Truth

    “On Eidul Azha he would always invite me to his place, and I would relish the scrumptious biryani and mutton curry cooked by his gracious mother. On Diwali, I used to go to his shop and offer him sweets.”
    So did he refuse to come in Diwali to your house or you refused to invite him ? I have seen Muslims , throughly corrupted ideologically by their religion.Recommend

  • Golmal

    You are an apologist for Vishwa Hindu Parishad. You are aiding
    and abetting extremists who have destroyed a society and culture
    that was once the envy of nations. But is now a pariah society, populated
    by racists, bigots, zealots and religious terrorists. You wrote ‘is it the end of
    the world?’ You cannot even see the vile connotations of YOUR comment.
    Recommend

  • Gujesh

    Normally, in such events only muslim boys come, they don’t allow their daughters to participate, although it is festival for women. Muslims don’t have any such festivals and even if they have, they will not allow hindu boys to participate. One sided liberalism does not work in secularism. Muslims believe in segregation of sexes and segregation of religions. If others do it, they should respect them. Any why anyone should insist that muslims be allowed to participate in this festival ? It should be left to hindus to decide as it is their festival.Recommend

  • rationalist

    The author seems to have a lot of time on his hands to spend time on such useless and silly subject matter.Recommend

  • Vishnu’s Brother

    You must be a Hindu from the US. Even got the Flag and the
    Bald Eagle. Only thing is, the eagle is looking like a chicken.
    You can thank all your ‘temples’ that USC admits Hindus.
    Does not bar them.Recommend

  • abhi

    Well said. I am sick of the one sided love affair. Most of the times you won’t see muslims participating in any Indian festivals but you will see many seculars too eager to participate in Eid.Recommend

  • Manish

    Good point. That’s something that got me thinking, that the author’s muslim friend was not so liberal after all.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Excellent comment.Recommend

  • Parvez

    A very good friend who originally hails from Allahabad in India and who still has family there and are Muslims tells me that this sentiment has only just started coming to the surface because the extremists have been encouraged by the existing political climate……intelligent and concerned people ( like the author ) are raising their voice but as most of the comments from India shows your concern is falling on deaf ears.Recommend

  • wb

    It’s a Hindu festival, celebrated by private individuals and organizations. Who they choose to invite and reject is their prerogative.

    It’s neither a secular holiday like Independence day nor is it organized by any governments.

    So, it’s their choice who they invite.

    Recommend

  • wb

    The blogger should mature up to understand that this is neither a government organized event nor is it a secular celebration like Gandhi Jayanti.

    So, who they invite or who they reject is their prerogative.

    Recommend

  • wb

    Well observed.

    Bigotry and ignorance are best hidden under dark sunglasses.Recommend

  • wb

    Hahaha. Well noted.

    Can’t believe how Indian bigots get so much space on Pak news papers.Recommend

  • wb

    I love your frustration and rant. Keep it coming I can spot you, I can pin point your comments even if you try to hide Recommend

  • IndiaDude

    Garba is a part of religious celebration of Navratri, honoring the Hindu Goddess Durga/Ambe mata, the symbol of shakti, the female energy.
    If a muslim wants to bow and pay respect to the Hindu Goddes, they are welcome. If the muslims and christians are there to eve tease and ogle at the girls at the garbas, then they are not welcome. The ogling and eves teasing applies mostly to repressed muslims, who thinks all the non-muslim girls in their colorful, midriff showing dress are prays.

    BTW, I am a Hindu who regularly participates in Eid celebration and low Qawalis that are organized during the muslim holidays.Recommend

  • IndiaDude

    ..to add further to my previous post..
    I would not mind muslims or christians visiting garba as much as I would mind the sapan kapoor being there.Recommend

  • ajeet

    That’s because Pakistani newspaper give more coverage to Indian news than Pakistani news.Recommend

  • COLVINOD

    I agree with you. It took ages to make India a world icon or an ideal country. In A world that is staggering with strife, terror, hate and conflict. India became like an oasis where people of all religions, faiths, belief and customs were living with mutual respect and harmony but then like a bad dream entered the devil……..destroying everything.Recommend

  • Rakib

    To share my impressions with Pakistanis who may not be familiar with Garba:

    As Gujarati traditional religious-folk dance Garba involved worship of mother goddess followed by dance. It meant conservatively covered women shuffling and moving in circle, in gathering dusk, around an artistically made well lit earthen lamp in the middle. They moved with rhythmic but monotonous clapping and an elderly singer singing the standard, hackneyed devotional folk-song, at times off key, with harmonium & a percussions providing support. No onlooker was interested in that boring spectacle. Some well-to-do ones cranked up a 78rpm or EP of Gujarati Garbas sung by Asha Bhonsle & that was height of sophistication.

    Sometime in the 80s it began changing. Slowly at first: mikes, better music, younger crowd, longer hours, better lyrics with some romance & circle became bigger. Number of onlookers increased and crowd was cosmopolitan. Hindus invited Muslim friends to attend & have snacks & all was well. Then the Stick Dance (Dandiya raas) began to be more popular, faster beat, disco Dandiya followed, more boys began dancing, Muslim boys too joined in, surreptitious gulping of booze began, bold blouses, flying odhnis, strobe lights came in, magnificent spectacle, great music and fast dancing was certainty. Money could be made by Organisers, tickets were sold, stalls put up, sponsors & ads came in, event management specialist jumped in, Aishwarya Rai & Deepika Padukone made it all filmy enough and girls’ tresses & boys’ dresses began more alluring as disposable income increased.

    It now became a coming-of-age grand party, a social event of nine nights of gay abandon, a non-stop carnival and an Indian counterpart of American Senior Promenade ( Prom) where what happens after the dance sets more tongues wagging than anything else. Affairs began & ended, tempers were lost, fisticuffs ensued, young bucks got into in to clashes, parents got worried.

    Rightly or wrongly many believe keeping non-Hindus out prevents something ending up as inter-religious clash or a mini-riot in sensitive areas of Gujarat. Life is complex now and it makes sense not to trouble, trouble. Sad very sad but c’est la vie! (such is life)!Recommend

  • Crikey

    What is a Garba? Who cares?Recommend

  • Rakib

    Your friend is right and your observation valid.. The sad part is the culture of banning, of social boycott, is becoming more pronounced. Once the habit is formed to decide who to keep out, rather than who to invite in, there is no limit & it will hurt Hindus themselves. Today it is only Muslims. Having dealt with “ogling” Muslim, in due course it will be “other” Hindus, who from their point of view may be-uncouth Biharis, vulgar UPites, crude Punjabis, drunken Malayalees, strange looking Easterners. And then exclusive Garbas: open only for Caste of Patidars. Brahmin Samaj, no Dalit & no hoi polloi & so on, and to the all too familiar world of Indian social stratification.Recommend

  • Soul Speek

    Are Hindus allowed inside Masjid?

    Muslims are so vehemently anti-idolatory. They mock hindus for idol worship. Why would muslim boys want to enter Garba which is essentially a worship of a Hindu Goddess?

    Hindus are not against Muslims celebrating Diwali or Holi but Muslims are specially interested in “Garba” as it the place where girls congregate to dance in a religious festival.Recommend

  • HZR

    What is this debate on a Purely Hindu function. how is it a matter for discussion and muslims not being allowed.Why are Christians not discussed and surely some may attend but always with their family Muslims do not come with their family.it is only boys who are there ogle and entice women…. so barred,Recommend

  • Bharat Indian

    Who said muslims are not allowed in Garba? All the muslim girls are most welcome, if they come without burqa.Recommend

  • ajeet

    Compared to what Muslims are doing to each others and minorities in Syria and neighboring places, this is like a primary school problem.Recommend

  • longlivepak

    Reply his comment don’t trollRecommend

  • Sanjay

    I want the muslim girls to come to garba. Then everyone is welcome.Recommend

  • Rana Eddy

    Surrounded by Bhakts & Pakistani bigots , I had stopped visiting this page….But still always good to read you sir.Recommend

  • Rana Eddy

    Because Mecca & Medina are not in India & I believe the author is Indian & this event too.Recommend

  • Rana Eddy

    Exactly !! The same way as it happened in Pakistan : Objective Resolution – supported by Ahmedias , Shias & Sunnis to silence & castigate the non-Muslims : & then once the non-Muslims were alienated completely & forever from public space , then lesser Muslims like Ahmediyas were silenced by a Shia PM ; in turn a few years later anti-Shiaism was nurtured by Zia and today it is Talibanis (Wahhabis) killing mostly Sunnis themselves…

    But the Bhakts don’t get it…brainless.Recommend

  • Tombraider

    May be that could be the reason why Hindu right-wingers are banning muslims from attending this Hindu festival because may be only Muslim youths and teenagers might attend this festival, i.e. for meeting Hindu women/girls.Your comments may hold the answer.LMAORecommend

  • ajeet

    You need to really pray hard for Pak to live long..Recommend

  • diskit

    Cosmopolitan culture is a curse on us, Hindus. When other religions have shunned it, especially Islam, this one sided openness is a an invite for Moslems to vandalise us. Leave us in peace. Cosmo never existed in India since Moslem invasion. Why invent it now?Recommend

  • diskit

    So you mean we should invite Moslems in our private events? Only then we become secularists? Otherwise we become racists, bigots … Surely it will be the end of Hinduism.
    Recommend

  • Rakib

    The days of absolute reverence, and nothing but, to Ambe Maa may be over. No point in going overboard with the religious angle even as it is absolutely correct that the origins of this folk dance lie in intricate, metaphysical meaning of “Garba” lamp (literally ‘womb”) as a symbol of universal mother & Hindu religion/custom.

    Over time, Garba/Dandiya are now just a genre of dance form like any other choreographed, glamorous & energetic group dances. One of the best choreographed dandiya dance is in movie “Hum dil de chuke Sanam” and the words (Dholi Taro Dhol Baaje) are by a Muslim-Mehboob, set to music by a Muslim, Ismail Darbar.

    The modern lyrics of Dandiya played in public do have an underlying tone of Bollywoodish romance. Falguni Pathak is one of the most popular singer whose numbers are a rage at the events. It might be interesting to understand some of the Gujarati lyrics used by her. To quote a mild one: Hu tau gai tee mele/Man malee gayu enee mele mela ma//Mela ma ankh naa ulala, mela ma jhanjhar jhankar/Koyee naa jane kyare vage, kalajade ankhyuno ban (We met & our hearts became one in the carnival. Be it the naughty eyes or tinkling anklets, neither knew when exactly arrow of your eyes pierced my heart.) Nothing maternal, esoteric or other-worldly about it.Recommend

  • Rakib

    Those who may be doing post graduation now, too must have been in primary school once..Recommend

  • Rakib

    That’s kind of you.Recommend

  • Sane

    Surprising that you not only resumed visiting this page , but also posted a comment. When will you move again?!! Recommend

  • Sane

    Errrrrr. Still on this page.Recommend

  • Sane

    You are genius.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Ha, ha….you’re funny and tenacious.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Yep, Hinduism is not a stagnant religion. It evolves differently at different places according to the atmosphere. What Hindus does is a reflection of the environment they live in.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Everything about it is divine for Hindus as we see God in everything.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    If it is to Allah, I can’t help!Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Juma masjid would do fine.Recommend

  • Linux Novice

    Yep, I don’t mind the inter religious marriages but the conversation thing is dastardly.Recommend

  • Vish

    In any case music and dance is prohibited for Muslims. So maybe these guys are looking out for Muslims.Recommend

  • Raghu Reddy

    Muslims do sing band Mataram. Some mullahs don’t, why would any Muslims care for him?Recommend