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Gangaur (गणगौर) is a festival celebrated in Rajasthan and some parts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

Gangaur is the colourful and the one of the most important festivals of people of Rajasthan and is observed throughout the state with great fervour and devotion by womenfolk who worship Gauri, the consort of Lord Shiva during March–April. It is the celebration of spring, harvest and marital fidelity. Gana is a synonym for Lord Shiva and Gaur which stands for Gauri or Parvati who symbolizes Saubhagya (marital bliss). The unmarried women worship her for being blessed good husband, while married women do so for the welfare, health and long life of their husbands and happy married life.

The festival commences on the first day of chaitra, the day following Holi and continues for 18 days. For a newly-wedded girl, it is binding to observe the full course of 18 days of the festival that succeeds her marriage. Even unmarried girls fast for the full period of the 18 days and eat only one meal a day. Festivity consummates on 3rd day of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra Month. Fairs (Gangaur Melas) are held throughout the 18 day period.

The festival reaches its climax during the last three days. The images of Gauri and Isar are dressed in new garments especially made for the occasion. Unmarried girls and married women decorate the images and make them look like living figures.

At an auspicious hour in the afternoon, a procession is taken out to a garden, bawdi or johad or well with the images of Isar and Gauri, placed on the heads of married women. Songs are sung about the departure of Gauri to her husband's house. The procession comes back after offering water to the first two days. On the final day, she faces in the same direction as Isar and the procession concludes in the consignment of the all images in the waters of a tank or a well. The women bid farewell to Gauri and turn their eyes and the Gangaur festival comes to an end.

There is a popular saying in Rajasthani Language about Gangaur:

Teej tyoharan bawri, le dubee gangaur

Gangaur Festival as described by Rajasthan Tourism website

The term “Shakti” has always held a special status in the Hindu religion. Shakti refers to an exclusively feminine principle and is perceived in all phenomena of life. The originator of life on Earth, it is responsible for the movement of all things, be it the cosmic objects or the various forces of nature. Deprived of Shakti, all creation on the planet will be renderedinept. Numerous ancient Indian texts, like the Vedas, Puranas and Epics bear citation of this cosmic power, recognizing its godly form as Parvati, the wife of Hindu God, Shiva. Over the ages, Shakti has been synonymous to a myriad of forms and identified under many names, one of which is Gauri. And as is suggestive by the name, the notable Gangaur festival is observed in honor of this very manifestation of Shakti (Gauri). The term “Gangaur” is comprised of “Gan” and “Gaur” where the prior refers to Shiva and the latter to Gauri. The Gangaur festival marks the worship and propitiation of Gauri, by the womenfolk, in various parts of Central and Western India, majorly Rajasthan.

Why is it celebrated?

The womenfolk celebrate the festival of Gangaur with great zeal and devotion, praying to Goddess Parvati/Gauri to bless them with a bountiful spring that’s full of harvest, and also marital harmony. They also urge the goddess to bless their husbands with good health and long life. Although this festival holds special significance for the married women, unmarried girls are also seen partaking in it in hopes of being blessed with a good husband. The story of Gangaur revolves around Parvati being escorted by Lord Shiva from her parental home,following a grand farewell. As per ancient texts, Parvati had performed severe penance for days to persuade Lord Shiva to have her as his wife. Her perseverance and devotion did indeed move him.

The Festival

The Gangaur festival starts on the first day of the month of Chaitra (as per Hindu calendar)which is on the following day of Holi, and is consummated on the third day of Shukla Pakshaof the same month. Thisfestival is usually an 18-day affair, during which all women are expected to observe a fast restricting themselves to only one meal a day. Clay idols of Shiva-Gauri perfected by the local craftsmen are decorated and worshipped during the full course of the festival. Certain Rajput families worship traditional wooden figurines of the divine couple, which are repainted every year by matherans (local painters) before the festival commences. These figures are then placed within baskets along with wheat grass and flowers; wheat plays an important role in the rituals as it signifies harvest. People also buy earthen pots known locally as kunda, anddecorate them in a traditional Rajasthani painting style called maandna. It is customary for married women to receive gift hampers from their parents known as Sinjara, which comprises of clothes, jewellery items, makeup and sweets. These gift hampers are generally sent on the second last day of the festival which the women utilize to get ready on the final or main celebration day. Decorating hands and feet with beautiful designs made out of Mehndi (myrtle paste) is another popularpractice that’s widespread during the Gangaur festival.

The Ceremonious Fair of Gangaur

Rajasthan is widely recognized for its grand and colorful celebration of events, and the Gangaurfair is no different. Various fairs are held in different corners of the state, the intriguing processions being their main highlight. Traditionally, a bevy of women clad in exquisite attires and bedecked with jewellery, process around the town with the beautified idols of Shiva and Gauri placed on their heads. Bands of local musicians are also a part of this procession as they play traditional and folk songs. The event culminates with the immersion of the idols in bawdi or johad (wells or water reservoirs), marking the farewell to Goddess Gauri. Often, people from distant corners of the town also flock to witness and participate in these processions. Certain tribes in Rajasthan also hold Gangaur as an auspicious occasion for choosing life partners. Following this popular belief, the unmarried men and women in these tribes come together and interact with each other. The purpose behind such a congregation is generally marriage.

Best places to witness Gangaur Fair in Rajasthan

The traditional procession is carried out with great pomp and pageantry in Jaipur, starting from the Zanani-Deodhi in City Palace and covering Tripolia Bazaar, Chhoti Chaupar, Gangauri Bazaar, Chaugan Stadium and Talkatora along the way. The royal procession of goddess Gangaur comprises of camels, chariots, bullock carts and dancing folk artists. The Gangaur festival reaches its epitome on the final day when no matter which city you visit, you won’t remain untouched by the grandeur of Gangaur fair in the majestic lands of Rajasthan.[1]

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