Gangaur is the festival which is colorful, festive and a celebration to the Goddess Gauri. Celebrated mostly throughout Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and some parts of West Bengal, Gangaur is the festival which epitomizes the Goddess Gauri, who is the other half or the consort of Lord Shiva.
Women mostly celebrate this festival and take part in the rituals. The festivity commences from the first day of Chaitra and continues for eighteen days thereafter. In 2016, Gangaur will be celebrated on April 9th and 10th.
Meaning of the name Gangaur
Gana is the synonym for Lord Shiva and Gaur is a take away from Gauri, Lord Shiva’s companion and consort. It is basically a celebration of the advent of spring, a better harvest and marital fidelity. Gangaur is celebrated by women. The married women celebrate it to seek blessings for her husband, for his welfare and healthy life. The unmarried women observe Gangaur so that they are blessed with a good husband.
Rituals of Gangaur
Clay idols or wooden idols of Shiva and Parvati are worshipped during this festival, for which they are brought home to be kept in a basket amidst grass and flowers. In some families, there are permanent wooden idols, which are painted afresh by painters called matherans for this purpose. The idols will not have a canopy over their head, which the idols of Teej, another festival have.
Wheat is strewn and sown in small earthen pots called the kunda and the grass used for the observance of this ritual. Water pots are decorated with beautiful designs called Maandna done with lime water. Ladies decorate their hand and feet with mehandi or Henna. On the seventh day evening post Holi, unmarried girls carrying ghudlia, which are earthen pots with numerous holes; go around singing songs. All newly married women are supposed to observe this ritual for a total of eighteen days only, while the unmarried women too are expected to fast and have only one meal in a whole day.
On the second last day of the festivities,the married women receive gifts of sweets, clothes, jewelry and other items from their parental homes. The women dress up in these and apply henna on hand and feet and celebrate the festival with their husband and family. For the last three days of the festival, a procession is taken out to a johad or well with the idols of Lord Shiva and Gauri. The married women carry these idols on their heads. On the first two days, the procession comes back after offering water; but on the last and final day Gauri is made to face the same direction as Isar and the procession concludes by immersing all the idols in the water. This is considered to be the departure of Gauri, and the women bidding farewell to Gauri turns themselves back and the Gangaur festival comes to an end.
Gangaur is considered to be an extremely auspicious time of the year to select a life partner. Thus lots of matches for marriages are made during this time. Amongst the tribal people, they meet their prospective partners; only to elope and marry during this time.
Celebration of Gangaur
The best celebrations are observed in Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaypur, Nathdwara and Bikaner in Rajasthan. In Udaypur’s Lake PIchola there is a boat procession and scintillating fireworks. Women, balancing the ghudlia the pot with holes, and lighted lamp inside, it are also an amazing sight.
In Jodhpur the morning starts with beautifully and gorgeously dressed women singing songs and carrying water and grass in pots.
In Jaipur the fervor and pomp starts from the palatial Jananadeori or the corner for women of the City Palace. The celebrations pass through the prominent places before it converges in the Talkatora area. The other places it covers include Chaugan stadium, Tripolia Bazaar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, etc. The procession is a sight to behold as elephants, palanquins, chariots and bullock carts all take part in it.
In Kolkata, West Bengal the tradition of celebrating Gangaur started when people from Rajasthan came and settled here. It would be almost a century that the Gangaur celebrations are being held here.