Theme: Documentation of Intangible Rural Traditions and Practices
By Ms. Sukanya Sharma
HeritageForAll Intern (Call 2019) from New Delhi , India
Internship Program “Rural Heritage and Traditional Food”
Bachelors in Architecture, School of Built Environment and Design, Lingayas University
India is well known all over the world as a country of culture and traditional festivals. As it is full of diversity in the religions, languages, cultures and castes, it is always crowded with people involved in the fairs and festival celebration. People from each religion have their own cultures and traditional festivals. Some of the festivals are celebrated by the people of all religions in the entire country. Each festival is celebrated in a unique manner according to rituals, beliefs and its history behind. Each festival has its own, legend and its significance. India is a country with example of unity in diversity as it contains people of various religions. Gangaur is the festival celebrated in the Indian state of Rajasthan and some other regions in India. It is the colorful and the liveliest festivals of Rajasthan. The traditional procession of Gangaur Festival is one of the largest and most looked forward to by the people of Rajasthan. Gangaur Teej marks the beginning of the 16 days fasting observed by the women of Rajasthan, some parts of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat.
Gangaur festival is celebrated in Rajasthan with full enthusiasm. Married as well as unmarried women worship Goddess Parvati on the day and offer Pujas, Aarthis and Prasad in new colorful clothes. A colorful procession with lots of colourful lights and flowers is also made in various parts of the state. Gangaur is considered to be a festival of monsoon and harvest. Gangaur marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring. In the word Gangaur, ‘Gan’ is the synonym for Lord Shiva whereas ‘Gaur’ stands for Gauri or Goddess Parvati. But mainly, this festival is held in the honor of Goddess Parvati as she is regarded as the epitome of marital love, strength, courage, power and excellence. During the festivities, married women worship Goddess Parvati for the long life, well-being and wealth of their husbands while the girls pray for getting a smart and an understanding life partner. The festival is rejoiced in the month of Chaitra, the first month of the Hindu calendar and falls in between March and April, according to Gregorian calendar. It begins on the very first day Chaitra month, the day after Holi and is celebrated for 18 days.
History of the Festival:
The women celebrate the festival of Gangaur with great zeal and devotion, praying to Goddess Parvati 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 Ceremonious Procession of Gangaur:
Rajasthan is widely recognized for its grand and colorful celebration of events, and the Gangaur fair 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 jewelry, 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.
Main Festival Folk Characteristics:
The last three days of the festival are the most happening as the Gauri’s are dressed in beautiful cloths and ornaments and the women who have kept their fast dress their dolls as per their will. A procession is taken out during the afternoons where the idols are placed on the top of their head and songs of Gauri and Isar are sung by those women. On the last date, the idols and the pots are then flown into the water and the fast is completed by the women where the festival also comes to an end.
The idols of Gauri and Isar are dressed in new attires and bejewelled with sparkling ornaments especially made for the occasion. The beautifully decorated statues look like they are brought to life by these girls and married women. The idols of Isar and Gauri placed on the heads of married women are taken in a procession in the afternoon, to a garden, bawdi or johad or well. Vidaai songs are sung as Gauri departs to her husband’s house. The idol of Gauri was offered water by the ladies present in the procession, they then come back. On the final day, the procession came to an end with the Visarjaan of all the idols in the waters of a tank or a well.