Gangaur is the colourful and the one of the most important festivals of people of Rajasthan and is observed throughout the state with great fervour and devotion by womenfolk who worship Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva during March–April. It is the celebration of spring, harvest and marital fidelity. Gana is a synonym for Lord Shiva and Gaur which stands for Gauri or Parvati who symbolizes Saubhagya (marital bliss). The unmarried women worship her for being blessed good husband, while married women do so for the welfare, health and long life of their husbands and happy married life. Gangaur is an extremely important festival of Rajasthan. It commences on the day following Holi and continues for 18 days. The festival is celebrated by womenfolk with great enthusiasm and devotion for Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva. While married women worship Gauri, the embodiment of perfection and conjugal love for the success of their married life, unmarried women worship the Goddess for being blessed with good husband. Gangaur Festival also celebrates monsoon, harvest and marital fidelity.
Rajasthani women welcomes another traditional festival of Gangaur with typical mewari songs like "poojan do gangaur bhanwar mhane poojan do gangaur".
Rituals of Gangaur Festival
The first important ritual of the colourful festival of Gangaur is the collection of ashes from the Holi fire and burying of wheat and barley seeds in it. These seeds are the religiously watered every day until the germination takes place. The ritual is performed with songs of Isar and Gauri (Shiva and Parvati) and the varying of pots of water on the head. For a newly-wedded girl, it is binding to observe the full course of 18 days of the festival that succeeds her marriage. Even unmarried girls fast for the full period of the 18 days and eat only one meal a day. Festivity consummates on 3rd day of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra Month.Fairs (Gangaur Melas) are held throughout the 18 day period. Numerous folklores are associated with Gangaur which makes this festival deeply ingrained into the hearts of Rajasthan, and parts of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana & Gujarat.Images of Isar and [Parvati |Gauri]are made of clay for the festival. In some Rajput families, permanent wooden images are painted afresh every year by reputed painters called matherans on the eve of festival. A distinct difference between the idols of Teej and Gangaur is that the Idol will have a canopy during the Teej Festival while the Gangaur idol would not have a canopy.
A week after Holi, women make clay images of Gauri and Isar. The ritual is made colourful and joyous with the traditional folk songs sung in praise of Gauri.
On the evening of the seventh day after Holi, unmarried girls take out a parade with ghudlia and singing songs related to it. Ghudlia is an earthen pot with holes around and a lamp inside. On their way, the girls are gifted small presents like sweets, jaggery, ghee, oil and a little cash. The ritual continues for ten days, upto the conclusion of the Gangaur Festival. On the last day girls break their pots and throw the remains into a well or a tank and enjoy a fest with their little collections.
However, Gangaur Festival celebrations reaches its peak during the last three days of the festival. At this time women take special care to decorate themselves and also the clay images that they had prepared. At an auspicious hour in the afternoon, a procession is taken out to a garden, tank or a well with the images of Isar and Gauri, placed on the heads of married women.
The ladies decorate their hands and feet by drawing designs with Mehndi (myrtle paste). The figures drawn range from the Sun, Moon and the starts to simple flowers or geometrical designs. Ghudlias are earthen pots with numerous holes all around and a lamp lit inside them. On the evening of the 7th day after Holi, unmarried girls go around singing songs of ghudlia carrying the pots with a burning lamp inside, on their heads. On their way, they collect small presents of cash, sweets, jaggery, ghee, oil etc. this continues for 10 days i.e. up to the conclusion of the Gangaur festival when the girls break their pots and throw the debris into the well or a tank and enjoys a feast with the collection made.
The festival reaches its climax during the last three days. The images of Gauri and Isar are dressed in new garments especially made for the occasion. Unmarried girls and married women decorate the images and make them look like living figures.
At an auspicious hour in the afternoon, a procession is taken out to a garden, bawdi or johad or well with the images of Isar and Gauri, placed on the heads of married women. Songs are sung about the departure of Gauri to her husband's house. The procession comes back after offering water to the first two days. On the final day, she faces in the same direction as Isar and the procession concludes in the consignment of the all images in the waters of a tank or a well. The women bid farewell to Gauri and turn their eyes and the Gangaur festival comes to an end.
The Gangaur of Jaipur is famous in all over the world. In Jaipur, a sweet dish called a ghewar is characteristic of the Gangaur festival. People buy ghewar to eat and distribute it among their friends and relatives.
In Udaipur it is celebrated specially for three consecutive days known as hari gangaur, chundari gangaur and gulabi gangaur.
Since the days of Maharanas, there is a tradition of offering Gangaur from the shore of Lake Pichola.
Several boats carrying idols of Isar and Gauri are placed in the boats which are followed by a big princely boat, which is also named as "Gangaur". After observing all traditional ceremonies, here starts a series of cultural programs and fireworks till late hours.
Gangaur aptly reflects the rich cultural heritage of Rajasthan and is celebrated with great pomp and show in Bikaner, Jodhpur, Marathwara and Jaisalmer. Gangaur Festival is also observed at some places in Gujarat.
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