The state of Rajasthan is synonymous with rich culture, traditions and creativity. Gangaur is a colourful and lively festival. The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the state of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and some parts of Gujarat. Also, people in Kolkatta who migrated from Rajasthan celebrate Gangaur with equal pomp and zeal.
The festival of Gangaur is primarily celebrated by the womenfolk just the day after Holi, for a period of 18 days. The festival marks the devotion of women towards goddess Gauri, consort of Lord Shiva. Gan represents Lord Shiva, and Gaur represents Gauri or goddess Parvati. It signifies marriage fidelity and additionally marks the end of winters and the onset of spring. Celebrations for the festival begins in the month of March-April. Unmarried women offer their prayers to Gauri as the popular belief is that they will be blessed, with virtuous husbands. Married women, on the other hand, seek her blessing for the health of their spouses and marital bliss.
The first day of Chaitra marks the first day of celebration for Gangaur. Sowing of seeds of barley and wheat in the ashes gathered from the Holi fire marks the start of the festival. Watering is done until germination of the seed takes place. The grass obtained from these seeds is used in the rituals to follow later. Idols of Isar(Shiva) and Gauri, are made from clay. It is mandatory for a newlywed bride and unmarried girls to adhere to the rules over the period of 18 days as they are allowed to eat only once during the day. Parents of the bride send clothes, jewellery and sweets as gifts to the in-laws. The singing of Gangaur Geet(folk songs) glorifying Lord Shiva and Gauri is a part of the ritual. In the evening, after a week of Holi festival, Ghudlias (earthen pots) are taken out. A lamp is lit, in these Ghudlias which have holes in it. Unmarried girls carry these earthen pots on their heads, singing traditional songs in praise of Gauri and Lord Shiva. The procession continues for a period of 10 days with gifts such as oil, jaggery, cash, ghee and sweets offered to the unmarried girls. The breaking of the earthen pots commences on the tenth day and ends with submerging of remains in water bodies. The last three days of Gangaur are of utmost importance. The decoration of Isar and Gauri is done, with beautiful clothes made especially for this occasion. At a designated auspicious hour, women dressed in their bridal finery carry the clay idols on their head. After offering water, the procession returns back. On the final day, a tearful farewell is given to the clay idols as they are submerged into the waters of tanks and well. Women adorn themselves in beautiful clothes and jewellery. Hands and feet are decorated with intricate designs such as flowers, geometrical patterns etc. using Mehendi.
Gangaur celebrations in Jaipur are well known all over the world, as a huge procession is carried out along the streets that attract people from various parts of the state of Rajasthan. A sweet delicacy also known as ‘Ghewar’ is specially made on this occasion. In Udaipur, there is a dedicated ghat named after Gangaur known as Gangori Ghat, that is situated on the banks of Lake Pichola. A grand procession comprising decorated camels, elephants, chariots and palanquins move across the city.
One cannot miss the grand and vibrant celebrations of Gangaur in the state of Rajasthan. Irrespective of cast and creed women come together to celebrate the spirit of womanhood. Worshipping goddess Gauri who is seen as the manifestation of strength, love and courage is the primary focus of Gangaur. The festival is also a great tourist attraction.