Written by: Mrs. Ila Pachauri
Editing: Sangeeta Venkatesh
(Note from Sojourn with San : On April 4th, 2022, the colourful state of Rajasthan celebrated the festival of Gangaur Teej. On this auspicious day, Goddess Gauri, believed to be the wife of Lord Shiva, is worshipped with great devotion. The day is celebrated to welcome the season of spring and celebrates the special bond that goes with the institution of marriage. I am pleased to have Mrs. Ila Pachauri, as a guest writer who paints a vivid picture of this festival)
Gangaur, a festival celebrated with zeal and fervour by Rajasthani women is all about paying obeisance to Goddess Gauri. Tourists from all parts of the world visit cities like Udaipur, Jaipur, and Jodhpur, come to witness the royal families participate in the festivities of Gangaur. The name Gangaur comes from the union of two names Gana (Shiva) and Gaur (Gauri). This colourful festival is celebrated on the Tritiya (3rd day) of Chaitra Navratri. Gangaur celebrates the onset of the harvest season and also celebrates the bliss and happiness that married life can offer. Fasting is an integral part of Sanatan Dharma and Gangaur provides yet another day to observe a fast. Both married and unmarried women observe a fast to revere the spiritual bond of love and conjugal bliss. Married women pray for the growth and well-being of their husbands, while unmarried women beseech the Goddess to bless them with a soul-mate like Lord Shiva.
The Legend: The story behind Gangaur goes something like this. The penance that Goddess Parvati (Gauri) observed to get Lord Shiva as her husband is well-known. Pleased with her devotion, Lord Shiva accepts her as his consort.
It is believed that when Goddess Parvati returned to her parental home on Holi, she blessed her 16 girl-friends that they find a husband like Lord Shiva. It was on the Tritiya of Chaitra Navratri that Lord Shiva came to pick Gouri Parvati from her father’s home. The 16 friends got together to see off Gauri and Shiva, and this is how Gangaur came to be celebrated.
In present times, women collect the ashes from Holika Dahan and sow wheat or barley seeds in an earthen pot using the ashes as the soil medium. Then they make clay idols of Isar (Lord Shiva) and Gauri. These idols are worshipped for 16 days beginning from Holika Dahan to Tritiya.
Cities like Jaipur, Udaipur, and Jodhpur are very famous for their 16-day long Gangaur celebrations, where women adorn themselves with fineries every evening, dance and sing bhajans and folk songs. Not to forget that these are fun-filled evenings too. The city of Udaipur has a Gangaur ghat by the banks of Lake Pichola where the carnival of Gangaur culminates.
A couple of days before Gangaur, womenfolk make a ring-like sweet and savoury called Gune as an offering or prasad. The sweet gune is made of wheat flour, ghee, and jaggery while the savoury gune is made with chickpea flour (besan) liberally spiced with red chilli powder, salt, asafoetida, ajwain (carrom seeds), made into a tight dough, rolled into thin chapattis, and then cut into strips. The strips are rolled around finger tips to make the rings, which are deep-fried to get crispy gune.
On Tritiya, womenfolk make ornaments from dough made of wheat flour mixed with turmeric powder, oil, and water.
Women dress up in colourful and heavy leheriya or bandhni sarees or lehengas. It is also an occasion to bring out and wear traditional jewellery too.
The clay idols of Isar and Gaur are set on a chowki (a platform), where they are offered bundles of durva (Bermuda grass), ornaments, vermillion, henna, kohl, bindi and a saree along with a bowl of 16 gune. The married women pray to Goddess Gauri to bless their husbands with long life (Amar suhag), while the unmarried girls pray for a suitable match for themselves.
They chant the following song while crisscrossing the durva bundles with their hands:
Gor gor ganpati, Isar puje Parvati,
Parvati ka aalaa gela, Gor ka sona ka teeka , De Tamka de,
Bala Rani vart karyo, khero khato laadu diyo, laadu le beera ne diyo,
beero mane chunner di, chunner mane gor udai, gor mane suhag diyo…. bhag diyo…
tan man 16, iswar gora, donyo joda, jod jawara, gehu 11,
raani pujae raj ne, me puja suhag ne, rani ko raj tapto jaye, maharo suhag badhto jaye,
idi khidi jaat de, jaat de gujrat de, gujarata ko paani, lele tapka tani, tani pe singhada,
bhade pe pichoda, hari hari doob le, doob ka dand le,
sono ko kachoro le, suraj ji ko kero le, Gangaur puj le, mharo bahi, em liyo, sem liyo, sarnari ki sem liyo, charjar ki jalebi liyo, ghika chata, ghewar liyo, imli ko chor liyo, naye odh liyo, gangaur puj liyo
After the pooja, women sing and dance for a while before returning to their homes for lunch. The evening sees them congregate again to immerse the clay idols in water. And then they wait for the whole year for the festivities of Gangaur to arrive again.
I personally love Gangaur for the colours of happiness and radiance, for its eco-friendly ways of celebrations (using clay idols, using the ashes of holika pyre as a soil medium, making ornaments out of wheat flour, using durva for offering…. everything is biodegradable), for the hope it brings just before harvesting wheat and the pure essence of joy that accompanies the festival.
Ila Pachauri is a postgraduate in environmental sciences and also a graduate in Indian classical music. Founder of ‘My Little Greens’, an indoor plants enterprise, Ila is also a crusader for the environment. A proud Rajasthani, Ila is a keen follower of traditions and rituals that she imbibed in her growing years. A poetess par excellence, www.sojournwithsan.com is delighted to have her as a guest writer.
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