A large number of Muslim craftsmen in Godhra city, which was the epicenter of the 2002 riots, earn livelihood by making 'dandiyas' (wooden sticks) for Navratri, Gujarat's most popular festival of the Hindus.
Several Muslim families in Godhra, about 60 kms from here, start preparing the dandiyas, used by men and women in the traditional folk dance, 5-6 months prior to the onset of the nine-day Navratri festival.
The about 18-inch long dandiya sticks, made from mango tree and 'baval' thorny tree wood, are decorated with colourful laces, beads and 'ghungroos' (tiny metallic bells strung together), says Rafiqbhai Abdulbhai Menda, who owns a dandiya manufacturing unit in Godhra.
According to him, over 500 Muslim families survive on 'Kharadikam' (painting and decorating of wooden sticks and other toys) done on these wooden sticks used for participating in 'dandiya raas and garba' across the state.
"...the Muslim craftsmen feel happy preparing the dandiyas for a spirited participation in the Navratri festival by Hindu community members," Menda said.
There are about 300 units in Godhra engaged in making dandiyas at Polan Bazaar, Sultanpura, Madhu Lot, Biladiya plot, Ahmednagar, Muhmandi Mohalla, Bhura Mohalla and Chakaliyani Vadi, Menda said.
Almost all small-scale dandiya-making units in Godhra are owned by Muslims. The sticks are in great demand across the country, particularly in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, he said.
"Every year, we begin making dandiyas some months before the Navratri festival. We supply these dandiyas all over India," said Abdul Sattar, owner of another unit.
"Wholesale dealers of dandiya sticks procure the best ones at reasonable rates in Godhra. Hence, they prefer to buy them in bulk from here. By making dandiyas, we earn a decent livelihood," Sattar said.
The 'dandiya raas and garba' are performed in the honour of Goddess Amba, Durga and Kalika depicting a mock fight between the goddesses and Mahishasura, the demon king, and is nicknamed 'the sword dance'.