India in itself is known for its rich and varied heritage, isn’t it? Here is yet another ritual in the name of religion for us to relish about and Gangaur it is. What is so significant about this festival that can be distinguished from other begetting celebrations from across the terrain? What relevance do our myths and beliefs give to this festival so as to cherish this traditional custom so long? Let us explore in detail about the colourful grandeur of Rajasthan, Gangaur.
“For me, religious festivals and celebrations have become an important way to teach my children about how we can transform living with diversity from the superficial ‘I eat ethnic food’, to something dignified, mutually respectful and worthwhile.”
– Randa Abdel-Fattah
Gangaur is an eighteen day long festival commencing from the day after Holi – the festival of colours, i.e., from the first day of Chaitra. Gangaur too is a colourful festival of ardour and vehemence and that which is an important festival for people dwelling in Bikaner, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Nathadwara, Udaipur and other places in and around Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. In fact, the Gangaur festival falls along with the Mewar Festival in Udaipur and is celebrated with great zeal and energy.
As per Indian Mythology, this festival marks the return of Ma Gauri to her parental home after getting married to Lord Shiva, and her generous shower of marital boons to her friends and other female aspirants in the region. The word ‘Gana’ refers to Lord Shiva and ‘Gauri’ points to Goddess Parvati. Hence, the festival is given by the name ‘Gangaur’ in regards to the Divine Couple.
The festival gives enormous importance to the reverence shown towards women, especially on the marital front. Both married and unmarried women fast for all eighteen days taking only one meal a day and pray towards the longevity, welfare and propriety of their spouse or would-be. Women of all phases dress-up in the best of attire, decorate themselves with jewels, adorn their hands with mehandi (henna), and the entire environment lights-up in joy and austerity. Earthen pots that are decorated with traditional Rajasthani Maandna (lime water) swarm across the state throughout the eighteen days as the wheat and water they contain play the lead role in rituals. People also rejoice and render some Rajasthani folk songs making it all more lively.
The core celebrations consummate from the third day and culminate at the eighteenth day, marked with a procession implying the send off given to Ma Gauri as she starts her journey to the Abode of her husband, Lord Shiva. This festival also has another economic feature to boast about as it enables seasonal employment of craftsmen who carve idols of Lord Isar and Ma Gauri in wood, clay and other substances. These idols are beautifully dressed and decorated and are finally immersed in rivers or wells after the procession, so as to commemorate the festival.
Meanwhile, the traditional painting community of Rajasthan, popularly known as ‘Matherans’, also get an opportunity to showcase their talent and uplift their living standards as well as reputations. Thus, goes about the enchanting festivity of this exuberant grandeur which plays a lively role in expressing the ethnicity of rich Indian heritage.