Among the various colourful festivals of India that dawn with the spring, the Gangaur festival of Rajasthan is one of the most popular and important festivals celebrated throughout the State with great enthusiasm and devotion manifested in the limitless love of womanhood. It is a cultural extravaganza starting on the first day of the Chaitra month, following the celebration of Holi. It is also observed in other states as well.
The word “Gangaur” comprises of two words – “Gan” and “Gaur”. Gan is synonymous to Lord Shiva whereas Gaur or Gavar means Goddess Gauri or Parvati, the consort of Shiva.
It is the festival of harvest, love and conjugal harmony. Started by the Rajputana rulers, this celebration is continued with the same reverence and glory, which usually lasts for 16 or 18 days. The Gangaur Puja is held in the honour of Goddess Parvati, who is the symbol of Saubhagya (marital bliss) and is the embodiment of excellence and marital love.
The spinsters worship Gauri with a strong desire for the perfect partner. Whereas, married women, on the other hand, pray for the health, longevity, and prosperity of their beloved spouses. The traditional attires attributed to the beauty of women like lehenga, chunni, and Benarasi sarees, in vivid colours, bring to life the idealistic romanticization we see in movies.
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Delicacies such as kheer, churma, daal-baati and halwa serve as a relishing feast, turning even one’s lunch and dinner into an unforgettable memory.
Deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, the preparations and planning commence days before the first ray of the festival. Primarily, five idols are sculpted depicting Goddess Gauri (Gangaur), Isarji, Kaniramji, Rovabai and Dholanmala. Kaniram and Rova are the brother and sister of Isarji, and Dholanmala is a young girl.
Some communities consider only two idols in reverence to Isar-Gangaur. Originally, these idols were a mixture of ash and mud, but now this composition has been replaced by wood and clay, crafted by the local potters of the Matheran and Usta communities.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 Sheetlashtmi in traditionally designed earthen pots. This grass is later used in adulation on the final day of the festival.
The Gangaur festival continues for sixteen days, however, a newly wedded girl is bound to observe the full course of eighteen days.
During the course of the festival few ceremonious conventions are followed- to wake up early in the morning, getting ready and bring some Dubh (a kind of grass) for the puja, and a drawing of the idols is made on a paper and then the girls are supposed to put 16 small dots with KumKum as a depiction of the auspicious state of wifehood.
If for instance, 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. During this parade, they sing the many songs of joy and cavort to the beat of their hearts. They also receive gifts from their elders. Ghudlia is nothing but an earthen pot with innumerable holes and a lamp inside.
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, and then sing the traditional folksongs (Geet) with the accompaniment of rituals.
Certain devotional songs have stories of origin and are composed of specific rituals. In the evening, they offer sweets as an oblation to the Goddess Gangaur.
The newlyweds must observe fast throughout the festival with the exception of one meal a day. Spinsters also observe fast at least for one day during the festival.
It is mandatory for the ones observing fast, to recite the story which is primarily related to this puja.
Our ancestors were very logical. Today studies find that fasting helps in keeping a body healthy. Learn more facts about healthy eating habits and science behind fasting.
The story goes like this:
Once, Lord Shiva with his better-half Goddess Parvati along with the Saint Narad was wandering across the four corners of the land. Then on the 3rd day of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra month, they reached a dense forest. On being aware of their presence, womenfolk in the nearby villages were very excited and delighted.
The women of the lower castes rushed to seek their blessings in no time with whatever little rice, turmeric powder and kumkum they had. Goddess Gauri sprinkled the “Suhaagras” on them as a blessing for an eternal and happy married life. But the ladies of the upper castes were late to arrive for worship, as they were busy preparing delicacies for the divine couple which they offered in golden-silver plates.
After the Puja, Lord Shiva raised an eyebrow as to what would Goddess Parvati offer them as there were no suhaagras left. The poised goddess with a motherly smile cut her finger and sprinkled her holy blood on the delayed ladies as benison.
After all this, the goddess went to the river for bathing and after her bath, prepared a Lingam (Shiva) with sand to offer her prayers. After her Puja was over, she conjured eatables from the sand itself and offered them to Shiva. The depiction of goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva is a manifestation of an ideal bond between a husband and wife.
Thus a wife true to her husband in love and care like goddess Parvati is granted with conjugal bliss and twice the longevity of the husband.
On this day, families get together and exchange gifts. It’s the day of 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 family. On this day, women feel as if they’re the indisputable queens of their families.
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 deserts. Relatives and friends are invited and the girls dance, sing, play, and act the roles of the goddess Parvati. The main charm is imbued in the devotional songs. These songs are moulded to the tunes of Marwari folk music and Bollywood evergreen hits.
The concluding three days are indeed magnificent. 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 extremely 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 which seem alive.
In the afternoons extending to evenings, women set out in a procession, 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, their eyes sparkling with tears of bliss.
Thus, in this way, the festival of Gangaur comes to an end.
Throughout the day people meet and welcome each other with the following wishes and blessings:-
May Goddess Gangaur bless you with prosperity, ecstasy, and well-being of your spouse and children. Happy Gangaur!
May this festival of joy fill your heart with love, happiness, and abundant fortune!
May this Teej light up your year with smiles and grins!
Some other associated stories make this fest much fascinating.
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.
Gangaur Festival is one of the key charms mesmerizing the state of Rajasthan. The rites and rituals though differ in different parts of the state. The cultural vibes fill up the air throughout the sixteen days of Gangaur Puja, especially the last day when it reaches its peak. The incredibly grand fairs make the celebrations even more memorable.
Sumptuous sweets such as Ghewar reign on the land of diverse tongues with diverse tastes, adding further to the glory of the occasion. For instance, the celebration at Alsisar Mahal (Shekhawati) is full of fanfare and activities. The most noteworthy destinations to witness this gala are Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, and Nathdwara.
No wonder that the Pink City of the royal land is considered to be the best place to enjoy the vivid colours of the festival. On the last day, commencing from Zanani-Deorhi in the City Palace, the traditional procession passes through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, and Chaughan stadium.
It then finally culminates near Talkatora where the idols are submerged in water. The procession consists of decorated elephants, artistic palanquins, bustling crowds of female-folk dressed like princesses. The beautiful women unique to the festival make the sky and earth tremble with joy through their dance, in rhythm with the mellifluous Rajasthani folk music. The majestic fairs and the special cuisine add an exquisite flavour to the pomp and charm.
This procession is one of the two occasions when the Tripoliya gate is opened for the locals.
The concluding three days of the Gangaur festival are celebrated as “Mewar Festival”. Situated on the waterfront of Lake Pichola, known as Gangaur or Gangori Ghat. The glorious parades of women carrying the Gangaur effigies march from the Clock Tower and pass through various areas before stopping at the Gangaur Ghat.
The royal family from the City Palace comes from Bansi Ghat to Ganagur Ghat. Breathtaking performances of Kalbeliya and Ghoomar are held, along with the spectacular fireworks that rent the still sky to boisterousness. The shimmering water of the lake surrounding the divine Isarji and Gauriji is indeed a rare sight.
The whole fest serves as a manifestation of the cultural and artistic hues that define the very honour of incredible India. The tourists get a chance to know the regional ceremonies in-depth, and a chance of a lifetime for photographers to capture the paintings and make them last forever.
Though it is predominant in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Gangaur Puja is also observed in some parts of West Bengal, Gujarat, and Telangana.
In Calcutta, it is believed to have started in the area of ‘Burrabazar’ but, now the ceremonial celebration has travelled to various other areas. A lot of people from the dessert state have migrated to Kolkata with time, which might be the reason why this festival has such a large presence there. Isar and Gwarja are worshipped, delicious food is prepared, women apply henna, and carry out a Shobha-Yatra dressed as Gods and Goddesses.
It’s like a carnival where the Rajasthani culture is blended with that of Bengal. Areas of Kakurgachi, Phoolbagan, and Beliaghata proliferate with the Maheshwari communities during this time.
In the areas of Malwa Anchal and Nimar of Madhya Pradesh, the Gangaur festival is celebrated with great pageantry.
The wheatgrass which is grown during these sixteen days has religious importance along with the known nutritional benefits. It is also worshipped as Goddess Durga and considered auspicious. Hence, on the last day, before immersing into the water, few are kept by girls as good luck or tied in their hairs.
The notable Gangaur festival is observed in honour of the very manifestation of Shakti (Gauri), which holds a special status in the Hindu religion. It refers to an exclusively feminine principle and is perceived in all phenomena of life. Deprived of Shakti, the entire planet would be rendered lifeless.
Women put on the finest jewellery for the festival and new colour-rich sarees – often red, which is the colour of marriage as per the Hindu culture. Goddess Parvati has set an astounding example for women by going through a great deal of pain and sacrifice to achieve the love and affection of Lord Shiva. Hence, womenfolk pray to be endowed with the same spirit so that they are able to face the most excruciating of pain to win her husband’s confidence and love.
In recent years, the Gangaur festival has become more than just a bygone custom. The Hindi Daily Soaps portray this vivacious celebration with voguish lehengas, glossy bangles, and embellishments to the fascination of today’s young generation. A song and a tagline in association with this celebration are now at the tip of everyone’s tongues- “…Gauri-Shankarji ke Jaisi Jodi ban jaaye..!”
People have started giving a modern touch to this aesthetic festival which makes it more engaging. The girls get immensely attached to the Goddess Gauri during these sixteen days, which depicts the customary difference of a girl after her marriage. In this era of divorces, this festival celebrates the all-expansive compassion of a woman towards her husband.
Thus, painting a positive attitude towards matrimony in the minds of the youth especially. A sense of romance, marital love, music, and dance is the other name of the Gangaur festival.