The festival is observed by women. Unmarried women celebrate this festival for getting a good married life; Married women observe this festival for the welfare of their family.
Gangaur festivities actually begin on the day after Holi. The festival ends as Gauri Thrithiya on the Shukla Paksha Thrithiya of the Chaitra month. The whole duration is for eighteen days. Women who observe this festival observe fasting for the full 18 days except for taking food for only one session a day. For newly wedded women observing Vrat for the first Gangaur after marriage is mandatory.
Gangaur is mainly celebrated in Rajasthan, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat. For the year 2021, it occurs on Thursday, 15th April 2021. The exact duration of the Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendar.
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Gangaur – Legend
There are a few legends associated with the observation of Gangaur festival.
Once Sri Shiva, Sri Parvathi and Sage Narada went on a short trip. The news of their arrival spread everywhere. When the trio went near a village, huge preparations were going on for making feast for Shiva and Parvathi.
Some poor women in the vicinity prepared simple meals and met Shiva and Parvathi on the way. The divine couple gladly accepted the food. Parvathi Devi sprinkled ‘Suhagras’ as blessing on the poor women. Suhagras means auspiciousness.
The other women greeted the divine couple and offered them the feast. They accepted. Then Lord Shiva asked Parvathi Devi “You have already given away the Suhagras to the poor women. What are you going to bless these women with?”. Parvathi Devi said “I will sprinkle my blood on these women”. She suited her words to action by snipping Her finger tip and sprinkling on the rich women.
Lord Shiva’s advice
After seeing Her cut finger, Lord Shiva advised Sri Parvathi to take a holy bath in the river for cleansing the wound. Sri Parvathi went to the river.
She made a Shiv Ling with the sand. She also did puja to the Shiv Ling. She offered sand itself as Neivedyam.
When She came back, Lord Shiva asked Her as to why She took so long to come back.
Sri Parvathi playfully replied “I have met my brother-in-law and uncle at the river bank. I was talking to them. So, I am late”. Playing along, He asked “what have you offered as Prasad for the Puja you have done at the river bank?”.
As banter, She replied, “I have created milk and rice with my power and offered them as Neivedyam”. Lord Shiva said, “Is it? Let me go and check”. Saying so, He reached the river bank.
Sri Parvathi Devi became a bit nervous that Her playfulness was going far. She too walked along with Lord Shiv. Sage Narada also accompanied them.
On reaching the bank, Sri Parvathi was amazed to see a palace. She also saw the brother-in-law and the uncle there. They invited the couple and offered kind hospitality. They stayed there for a couple of days. On the third day, Sri Parvathi Devi wanted to leave. Lord Shiva was reluctant. But Sri Parvathi Devi insisted and walked away.
Lord Shiva had to follow Her. Sage Narada also went with them. They walked very far. At the time of Sunset, Lord Shiva said “Oh. I have forgotten my Japamala at the palace itself”. Sri Parvathi said “I will go and get it”.
Sri Shiva stalled Her. He asked Narada to go and fetch the Japamala. When Narada went to the place, he found no palace, no persons but only wild animals roaming around. He found the Japamala hanging on a tree and took it back to Lord Shiva.
Narada worshipped Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi and said “You both are good at divine play. Maa Gowri, whoever worships you shall be blessed with auspiciousness”.
Gangaur – preparations
The preparations for celebrating Gangaur are done immediately after Holi festival. Initially, the ashes from the Holika dahan are collected. Barley or wheat seeds are sown. The grains germinate within 18 days.
The unmarried girls get the pots which have holes on the sides. In the pot, they put the lit lamps. On the seventh day of Holi, the girls carry the pots on their heads singing songs. They go around with the pots on their heads for ten days.
Everyday, they are presented with small gifts such as cash, sweets, jaggery, ghee, oil etc., On the day of Gangaur, they smash the pots in the pond and enjoy the feast with the ten day collections.
The ladies apply mehandi on their arms and feet with varied designs. The designs are depicted in the form of Sun, Moon, Stars, flowers etc.,
Women make dolls of Lord Shiva and Gowri (Sri Parvathi Devi) with clay. The idols are painted. At times, even wooden idols are repainted.
They decorate the dolls with jewels and red cloth. The dolls are worshipped daily. Slokas and folk songs praising Shiva and Parvathi are chanted / sung.
It is believed that the ladies put marks of Kumkum, Mehandi and Kajal on the wall at Puja place at home for sixteen days.
Gangaur – Rituals
It is believed that the following rituals are generally followed:
-Women rise early in the morning before sunrise. The whole house is cleaned with water.
-Before puja, the women go out to the garden with the lotus on their heads. They fill the lotus with water and come back to the puja place at home.
-They decorate the idols of Eshwar and Gowri with flowers. The idols are also put in small swings and swung.
-Puja is done to the Idols with flowers. Lamps and incense sticks are lit.
-Maa Gowri is worshipped in ten manifestations such as Gowri, Uma, Latika, Subhaga, Bhagamalini, Manokamna, Bhavani, Kamada, Bhoga Vardhini and Ambika.
-The day of Gauri Trithiya is considered as the day of reunion of Lord Shiva and Sri Parvathi after a small separation.
-At the end of Gangaur Puja, the dolls are taken on procession and immersed in the water bodies.
Gangaur – other names
Gangaur is referred in many names. A few of them are:
-Sowbhagya Gauri Vrat
-Dola Gowri Vrat