A colourful and most important festival of Rajasthan is Gangaur. It is also celebrated in some parts of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and West Bengal. ‘Gan’ means ‘Shiva’ and ‘Gauri’ means ‘Parvati’ hence the word Gangaur forms. Gangaur is a celebration of marriage and love, honouring Goddess ‘Gauri’ or ‘Parvati’. Every woman whether she is married or unmarried takes part in this festival. Women overflowing with eager enjoyment make clay images of ‘Shiva’ and ‘Parvati’, dress them beautifully. They offer prayers to them, observe day-long fasts for marital happiness and prepare delightful dishes for the family. ‘Parvati’ represents perfection and marital love; therefore married women do it for the welfare, health, and long life of their husbands and happy married life. While unmarried women worship for being blessed with a good husband.
Legendary fact is that with the deep devotion ‘Gauri’ won lord ‘Shiva’s affection and love. Then, she visited her paternal home during Gangaur to bless her friends with marital fidelity. The festival is not only about celebrating marriage and love but also marks the celebration of spring and harvest. The festival begins on the next day of Holi and is celebrated for two weeks. Commencing from the first day of Chaitra, the festival continues for 16 days. The newlywed bride observes the full course of 18 days of the festival that succeeds her marriage. Women fast for the full period of 16 days eating only one meal a day. Even unmarried girls also follow the same ritual.
Gangaur festival attracts a huge number of tourists from all over the world. The most prominent festivities happen in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, and Bikaner. A sweet called Ghewar is a specialty of the Gangaur festival. Local people eat and distribute Ghewar among their friends and relatives. A procession commences from the Zanani-Deodhi of the City Palace, Jaipur with the image of Gauri. The procession is headed by an old palanquin, chariots, bullock carts, and a performance by folk artists. It then passes through Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan stadium, and finally converges near the Talkatora.
Tradition and Rituals
Gangaur festival begins on the next day of Holi. People from Rajasthan follow a custom of collecting ashes from the Holi fire and seeds of ‘Barley’ are sowed in it on the first day of the Gangaur festival. The seeds are then watered every day awaiting germination. Gangaur festival is colourful and full of music. The hands of women were decorated with beautiful mehndi designs. The prayerful songs for Isar (Siva) and Gauri were sung during rituals. Women carry painted earthen pots on their heads.
Unmarried girls carry ‘Ghudlia’ on their heads during the procession on the seventh evening after Holi. Ghudlia is an earthen pot with holes around and a lamp inside. The procession is practiced for ten days. During the procession, locals and elders give gifts to the girls in the form of sweets, jaggery, oil, ghee, etc. Then these gifts are used for making special dishes by women at home. On the last day, the girls break their pots and throw the debris into the well or a tank and enjoy a feast with the collected gifts.
Big fairs are organised during the festival. Images of Gauri and Isar are made with clay. But some of the Rajput families use permanent wooden idols after painting them every year. On the final day, married women carry the images of Isar and Gauri, on their heads. The procession is taken out during the afternoon escorted by traditionally dressed camels, bullock carts, horses, and elephants. It heads towards water resources like well, river or bawdi. Gauri is departed to her husband’s house with songs sung by women. The procession completes by immersing clay images in the water. This is the end of the Gangaur festival.