Gangaur is a festival that is celebrated with fervour and devotion in the region of Rajasthan and its adjoining erstwhile kingdoms of Rajasthan.
The name Gangaur comes from 2 components, Gana and Gauri.
Gana means “numbers” and also “heavy”. We have the Gana dhootha as the followers of Shiva. Here, in this word, Gana indicates Shiva. For, the Gana dhootha pay their obeisance to Shiva.
Gauri stands for Shiva’s wife. The word Gauri has also the component Ghora meaning “white, fair”. Which is why, the deity of Gauri is depicted as being white and not pale in colour. This festival is celebrated at the end of spring, post-harvest, when the women have more time to handle marital matters. So, it is celebrated as a marital festival where the girls pray for a good marriage, seek a good husband and the married women pray for the heath of their husband and well-being of their whole family.
Different facets of Parvati
For each festival, different aspects of Parvati are highlighted. For Navaratri, it is the Shakti or Durga component that is highlighted, for some other festival, Parvati facet is highlighted. For this festival, it the facet of Parvati as Gauri, being fair that is venerated. Post the colourful Holi festival for 18 days, the women observe vrath to Gauri and on the 3rd day of the Shukla Paksha, the waxing, brightening phase of the moon, the colourful festival of Gangaur is celebrated.
On the seventh day of the festival, women carry lamps in their pots, on their head after dusk, in procession. The lighted pots on the head are a beautiful sight to behold. These lighted pots are called Ghudlia.
Women carrying Ghudlia
The Bridal procession
This Gangauri procession is looked at by the women as Gauri leaving her parental home and going in a bridal procession to her husband, Shiva’s house. Every women uses this procession for her to connect, reminiscence of her bridal procession.
Timing of festival
Here again we see that the festival is designed in tune with nature. After the winter harvest is over and the food grains are stocked up for the coming months, after Holi, the community colour festival has been celebrated and the attention of the women folk who have been involved in harvesting, stocking the food grains, harvest, the preparation and mirth, feasting of Holi is passed, then it is the time for sobriety.
They observe the vrath, eating only one meal a day. It is at this time that the family is together, before the onset of the heat of the impeding summer. Rajasthan being a desert area, the summer temperatures rise to a scorching 40 degree Celsius every day of summer. It is in this seasonal background that the festivities have been designed through the ages and celebrated.