– by Enakshi Roy Chowdhury (Twitter)
Sept 14, 2016: “Gana” is another synonym for Lord Shiva; “Gaur” is Parvati or Gauri who symbolizes ‘Saubhagya‘ or marital bliss. “Gangaur” signifies both Lord Shiva and Parvati together.
Gangaur is one of the most important festivals in Rajasthan and is celebrated by the women folk with great ardor. It is believed that Parvati returned to her parental home during Gangaur, to bless her friends with marital pleasure. On the last day, Parvati was given a grand farewell by her loved ones and Lord Shiva had come to escort her back home. This year, it was celebrated on April 10 in India.
Women of Rajasthan celebrate Gangaur with great devotion to Parvati or Gauri, the companion of Lord Shiva. The married women worship Gauri for the longevity and good health of their husbands, and unmarried women worship the deity to be blessed with a good husband.
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This festival initiates from the first day of ‘Chaitra‘ or from the next day of Holi and continues for the next eighteen days. The festival begins with the custom of gathering ashes from the Holi fire and burying the seeds of barley in it. It is obligatory for newly wed women to observe this ritual for complete eighteen days and keep the fast to ensure her marriage does well. The unmarried women are also said to fast for the full period of eighteen days with just one meal a day.
The most notable celebrations take place in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Nathdwara. Udaipur has the privilege of having a dedicated ghat named after Gangaur, known as the Gangori Ghat which is situated on the waterfronts of Lake Pichola. There is a boat procession on the Lake, and women balancing brass pitchers on their heads add to the interest. The Gangaur of Jaipur is famous all over the world. A sweet named ‘Ghewar‘ is a characteristic of the Gangaur Festival. Processions with the image of Gauri commence from the Zanani-Dheodi of the City Palace. It passes through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan Stadium and finally converges near the Talkatora.
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Clay idols of Parvati and Shiva which are worshiped during the festival are made by the local craftsmen. The celebrations begin almost a night before the festival. On the day of the festival, a group of women dress up in their best clothes and hold a procession from the town to various villages carrying colorful idols of Gauri. People from nearby villages come over to take part in the procession.
On the last day of the festival, the idols of Isar and Gauri are dressed in new attires especially made for those occasions. In the afternoon, the idols are taken by the married women, carrying it on their heads in a procession to a johad, bawdi or well. The idols are then immersed in the wells or tanks of water, by the women, bidding farewell to Gauri as she makes her way back to her beloved Lord Shiva.