Gangaur is among the most colorful festivals of India that is highly popular and widely celebrated. It is celebrated throughout the different parts of the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and now even Assam with great ardor and devotion. It is a celebration and gratification of the limitless love that womanhood has to bestow on earth and existence in itself.
The Gangaur festival is celebrated in the month of Chaitra. The cultural extravaganza associated with it starts on the first day of the Chaitra month. It is followed by the celebration of Holi. The word “Gangaur” comprises of two words – “Gan” and “Gaur”. “Gan” is synonymous with Lord Shiva whereas “Gaur” or “Gavar” means Goddess Gauri or Parvati, the consort of Shiva.
Gangaur is also celebrated as a festival of harvest, love, and nuptial harmony. The commemoration of the festival can be traced back a 100 years to the reign of the Rajputana rulers. Even today it is observed with the same reverence and glory in the state of Rajasthan and all across the country. It usually lasts for 16 or 18 days. The Gangaur Puja is held in honor of Goddess Parvati. Maa Parvati is the symbol of Saubhagya (marital bliss) and is the embodiment of excellence and marital love.
The unwedded worship Gauri with the hope to be blessed with the perfect partner. The married women, on the other hand, pray for the health, longevity, and prosperity of their beloved spouses. Deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, the preparations and planning for the festival commences days before the festival. Primarily, five idols are sculpted depicting Goddess Gauri (Gangaur), Isarji, Kaniram-ji, Rova-bai and Dholanmala. Kaniram (brother) and Rova (sister) are siblings of Isarji. Dholanmala is a young girl.
Some communities consider only two idols in reverence to Isar-Gangaur. Originally, these idols were made out of a mixture of ash (Holika Dhayan) and mud (cowdung cakes), but now this composition has been replaced by wood and clay and are mostly crafted by the local potters of the “Matheran” and “Usta” communities. Some deify the stones made of the ashes as “Kachchi Gangaur”.
The idols are available in various sizes and are decked with costumes, jewellery, turbans and crowns. The ones made of clay are placed in a basket with grass and flowers. The preparation dawns when the seeds of wheatgrass (jawara) are sown on the day of “Sheet Ashtmi” in traditionally designed earthen pots. This grass is later used in adulation on the final day of the festival.
The Gangaur festival in Rajasthan continues for sixteen days. A newly wedded girl is expected to observe the rituals for the entire course of sixteen days.
During the festival, few ceremonious conventions are followed:-
- Wake up early in the morning
- Getting ready and arranging Dubh (a kind of grass) for the Puja.
- Idols are drawn on the paper and then the girls are supposed to put 16 small dots with Kum Kum, Kajal, and Mehendi as a depiction of the auspicious state of wifehood.
- If dubh is not available, one can devoutly water the seeds with a silver ring.
On the evening of the 7th day, ladies carry out a procession to the sound of drums, walking with Ghudlias on their heads. Ghudlias are earthen pots with innumerable holes and a lamp inside. During this parade, they sing many songs of joy and cavort to the beat of their hearts. They also receive gifts from their elders.
From the 8th day onwards, the clay or wooden idols placed in the basket are worshipped. However, some communities don’t keep the basket. The females offer water to the Goddess while observing a fast till afternoon. They then sing the traditional folk songs (Geet) with the accompaniment of rituals.
Certain devotional songs have stories of origin of the festival and are composed of specific rituals. In the evening, they offer sweets as an oblation to the Goddess Gangaur. The newly weds must observe fast throughout the festival except for one meal a day. Unmarried also observe fast at least for a day during the festival. It is mandatory for the ones observing fast, to recite the story about the Gangaur festival and learn how it is related to the Puja.
Sindhara or Sinjara
On this day, families get together and exchange gifts. It’s the day of the women in the house. The elders give their daughters and daughters-in-law various gifts such as clothes, jewellery, bangles, bindis, sweets, and much more.
The gifts are also sent to the son-in-law’s house. Women adorn their feet and hands with henna, don the gifted outfits and then, celebrate with their families. On this day, women are made to feel as if they’re the indisputable queens of their respective families.
Bindoras or Bandoras
The main vibrancy of the festival lies in the Bandoras which are a kind of “kitty-parties” for those involved in the celebrations. Delicious food is cooked along with desserts. Relatives and friends are invited and the girls dance, sing, play, and act out the various facets of the goddess Parvati. The main charm is imbued in the devotional songs. These songs are molded to the tunes of Marwari folk music and Hindi evergreen hits.
Bidding farewell to the Gangaur festival
The concluding three days are indeed magnificent as it is marked by colorful and spiritually uplifting rituals and festivities. Finally, the day arrives when all bid farewell to the Goddess Gauri. This day is also known as “Gauri” or “Gangaur” or “Saubhagya Teej” which is very popular in Hindu culture. Generally, Teej refers to the third day after the rise of the new moon and the day after the full moon.
Gangaur Puja is performed with zeal celebrating the bond of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Women embrace themselves in bright hues of traditional choli (attires) and glistening ornaments, likened to the idols of the goddesses.
In the afternoons extending to evenings, women set out in processions, taking the idols on their heads to a nearby lake or pond to perform the Gangaur Puja one last time before immersing the idols in water. They sing “Vidaai” songs of Gauri departing to her abode with Isarji with their eyes moist with tears of bliss. With this the festival of Gangaur comes to an end.
Legend and Myth associated with Gangaur Puja
After Goddess Sati immolated herself, Lord Shiva felt tormented and bereaved. The Goddess took 108 subsequent births to rejuvenate Shiva. Her 108th incarnation was as Goddess Parvati. The invocation of Parvati’s blessing during the festival is believed to bring about perpetual marital bliss.
As per Hindu texts, Goddess Parvati was attracted to Lord Shiva and prayed day and night for him. Impressed by her devotion, Lord Shiva decided to marry her. The Gangaur festival revolves around Shiva escorting Parvati from her parental home, followed by a grand farewell. Some tribes look upon Gangaur Puja as an auspicious occasion to choose their perfect life-partner.
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