This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by deepika srivastava. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

6 Ways I Think The Sabarmati Festival Set An Example Of How Culture Should Be Celebrated

More from deepika srivastava

By Deepika Srivastava

The morning of 6th January was slightly different. Neighbours poured in much earlier than usual, my phone beeped much more than usual. Blissfully unaware, I was forced to come out of my cocoon and out of sheer compulsion pressed the top button of my phone. There it was, a poster saying ‘Sabarmati Festival welcomes you all’. One group beamed at the prospect of swaying to the tunes of Arijit Singh, Bhoomi Trivedi; while the other beamed at the chance to be exposed to such a large-scale extravaganza of our bread. Yes, our bread, my bread. Being an Interior Design student at CEPT University, such festivals are an opportunity for people like me to make a difference to society and, our own image too.

sabarmati festival 1The festival, held from 6th to 10th January, across multiple venues in Ahmedabad was a celebration of sorts – literature, dance, music, arts, crafts, theatre – everything was celebrated in full glory. Modelled on the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival held annually in Mumbai, the festival indeed delivered, keeping in mind the diversity, scale and calibre. From professional designers to craftsmen to housewives, from design schools to NGOs, many came forward to be a part of this extravagant display.

Seeing the works of my faculties and seniors led me to wishful thinking. Witnessing the beautifully crafted designer pieces from National Institute of Design with the handicrafts on one platform could only make me wonder about the horizon where the two would meet; arts and crafts like kaali mitti pottery (black soil), nail art (an artist from Anand sketches using his nails on paper and then paints it with oil-based powdered wax colours), Kachchi work, crochet, ply-split braiding and designer products were displayed alongside painted bottles (with plants), bookmarks and other artwork by children associated with NGOs.

The nail artist from Anand was of particular interest to me, as he not only gave a live demo but was also ready to help me outsource those ‘special’ colours to channel my artsy pursuits. Such warmth, and there you realise why many of these people shudder at the idea of working with city-based designers.

In its first edition, in my perception, the festival delivered much more than it promised and is associated with these deeply layered aspects:

sabarmati festival 31. The most immediate effect of such a festival is that it allows anyone to walk in and be a part of art. It breaks down the notion of art being elitist; a layman, irrespective of his social status, gets exposed to art. It promotes inclusivity and might help designers to find a new market. The common man steps out of the confines of his home and is exposed to a much different world.

2. By bringing both, performing and non-performing arts – literature, dance, music, theatre, arts, crafts – in its array, the festival is a celebration of society; it is a celebration of the spirit of Ahmedabad, as it has been rightly marketed. Though targeted towards the mainstream in its first edition, in the future editions it could strive to bring forth the lesser-known art forms and revive them. Bringing such artists forward not only gives them recognition and revives the lost heritage, it also stands the chance to provide them potential sources of livelihood and make a difference to the economy.

3. The most noteworthy of all is the participation of NGOs, housewives and even school going children. The non-designer and non-artisan putting stalls parallel to designers and artisans celebrates the innate designer within all of us; it celebrates that art and design are a part of daily life; they are utilitarian. It shackles the notion of ‘Art is Elitist’. Though nowadays it is believed that only the rich have access to art, the fact that design stems from the common man still remains. One look at the cave paintings or vernacular architecture is enough to prove that.

4. Moreover, it gives a new identity to the Sabarmati river. No doubt, the riverfront helped to revive its importance to a large extent, but such festivals can better it more. Many events of theatre, literature, music were conducted across multiple venues like Bhadra Fort and Sarkhej Roza, which again have a prime historical significance. The river and these monuments are an integral component of Ahmedabad’s history and heritage, and celebrating them evokes past glory. It also gives an impetus to civic bodies to work with designers and upgrade the infrastructure of surrounding areas.

5. The festival housed a number of installations, all of which carried a social message. Though these installations were an ideal back-drop for the selfie-taking people, a few or even many, would have stopped to look at it and understand its intention. A certain interaction begins, between the designer and the common man, and the seed of social change is sown. It celebrates the strong role designers can play in creating social awareness. Since the materials used were mostly scrap, it also begins a dialogue of sustainability.

Sustainability is a pertinent issue in today’s age of global climate crises and is being widely discussed across all forums – be it political, economic or design. Displaying traditional arts and crafts is celebrating the spirit of sustainability- social, cultural, economical and ecological.

sabarmati festival 26. Though the festival housed a diverse range of products, the main concentration was on the craftsmen and artisans, who came in from as far as Orissa. One such interaction with a craftsman brought to light a sentiment which echoes throughout all craft/art communities – their devotion to tradition and unwillingness to accept any change. Having trained students like me at several design colleges, he was apprehensive about collaborating with designers in fear of losing the traditional value in his products. I felt belittled and weird. But then, it made me question the notion of tradition. The natural flow of anything – be it tradition, people or even a mundane object, is to change and evolve; as they say, change is the only constant. While talking about arts and crafts, the intactness of tradition emerges the strongest. It is not wrong, but one can always discuss the evolving nature of culture and tradition.

I thoroughly enjoyed the festival and look forward to the next edition. Such festivals are a boon to the culturally rich Indian cities, states, and more importantly the people, and should be conducted more often. Not only do they celebrate and revive culture, they give an identity to its followers, practitioners and propagators.

Images posted by Sabarmati Festival on Facebook.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aalap Tanna

    Very good Review 🙂
    I was in Sabaramati festival’s Literature committee.
    Thank you

  2. deepika srivastava

    Hi aalap,
    thank you for your comment.
    I hope someday I become good enough be on the committee….

More from deepika srivastava

Similar Posts


By Rapti Mukherjee

By varun pratap

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below