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Gangaur: The Core of Rajasthani Culture

By: Aanya Mundhra, 8 years, Grade IV, New Delhi, India

My father belongs to a town called Bikaner in the city of Rajasthan, India. Like most Rajasthani (Marwari), my family also celebrates the Gangaur festival which is one of the most important and significant festival for us. We worship Gawarjaji who is an avatar of Parwatiji and Isherji who is an avatar of Shivji. Thus,‘Gan’ means Shivji (Indian God), and ‘Gaur’ means Gangaur (Indian Goddess Parvati).
Gangaur is celebrated for eighteen days. It begins after Holi. On the last day, the ladies observe a fast. This festival is celebrated by married ladies for the long life of their husbands and by unmarried ladies/girls for a suitable match.
When I was 3 years old, my Chachu (my father’s younger brother, uncle) got married and my Chachi (uncle’s wife) celebrated her first Gangaur after marriage. My Mom and my Chachi used to dress in traditional clothes and make a rangoli like a pattern in two earthen pots every morning and evening and sing songs. One-pot was for Gawarja and one was for Isherji. I also used to sit with them and enjoy singing and decorating. My parents and grandparents have told me that I even learned the songs and used to keep singing them. Every year, on one of the 18 days we also organized a get together at our house where many ladies of our community gather, and together they sing and enjoy the songs and the Puja.
They performed this puja for 18 days as it was my Chachi’s first year of marriage. But after that, every year we just celebrate on the main day. All the married ladies of the house keep a fast on that day and dress up in the morning in their traditional clothes mostly a Red Bandhej Saree and head towards the temple with their pooja platter which also has a sweet dish made of ghee, flour, and sugar to be offered to GOD.
In the temple, huge idols of Gawarja and Isher are brought in from some other family’s house. Both the idols are dressed for this occasion in new clothes. Gawarjaji wears a beautiful and colorful Rajasthani Ghaghra whereas Isher wears a nice Dhoti Kurta and a turban. Both are decorated with lots of jewellery. I also go whenever I don’t have school and I love how colorful and festive everything looks with all the ladies dressed in such colorful sarees, lehengas, and dupattas. Orange, red, green, and maroon are the colors for dresses for any Rajasthani festival as they are considered auspicious.
The ladies perform their puja and offer the prasad to them. They take Gawarja and Isher’s blessings and come home. After coming from the temple, all the family members take both the earthen pots to be put in the river. It is like a farewell for the Gods who were with us for 18 days.
In the night again, the ladies dress up in more beautiful clothes and jewelry when they break their fast they have a nice feast prepared which includes puris and Ker Sangri sabzi which is a sweet and spicy vegetable from Rajasthan, and also sweets besides many other delicious things. In the morning after the pooja, my Grandmother makes us sit down and narrates to us the story behind this festival.
The story goes like this: One-day Isher and Gangaur went for a walk. On their way, they met a horse who was pregnant and in pain. On seeing that Gangaur asked Isher to tie a knot in her womb, then Isher said if I tie a knot once, I will not be able to untie it ever.
Then, they saw a cow who was pregnant and also in pain. He again said tie a knot please and then they went forward. Then near a palace, they saw a group of people who looked worried. People told them that the queen is having a baby and she is in a lot of pain. On hearing that, Gangaur repeated her request and he reluctantly agreed to tie her womb. They both felt hungry and they went to eat in Gangaur’s parent’s house which was nearby. When her mother served food, knowingly Isher finished whole food.
Nothing was left for Gangaur to eat except for two small bites and one glass of water. After that, Isher asked Gangaur that what have you eaten so Gangaur said I ate what you ate and she went to sleep, and then Isher opened Gangaur ’s navel and saw two bites of food and some water. When Gangaur woke up, Isher told her that you lied to me. Gangaur did not like it and requested that from now no one should peek inside a female’s stomach and Isher agreed. That is why even today it’s difficult to understand women and her deep secrets.
On their way back to Kailash Parvat, their abode, they saw that people near the palace were very happy and dancing so they asked and got to know that the queen delivered a baby. Gangaur then told Isher that untie my knot so Isher said I told you before that if I tie a knot you won’t be able to untie it and they went on. They saw that same cow and she was happy so Gangaur asked Isher that why is the cow so happy and looking at us. Isher answered maybe she also delivered a baby and she is thanking us. Again Gangaur said please untie the knot. Going ahead they found the horse happy and Gangaur pleaded to Isher that untie my knot. They went forward and reached someplace where 3 ladies did Gangaur’s Pooja and she was very happy.
She gave blessings to all ladies and so it was believed that with the blessings of Gangaur unmarried girls get good husbands and married ladies get long lives of their husbands so this festival is very lucky and important for the ladies.
It is celebrated in a big way throughout Rajasthan and they also take out a procession of the idols of Gangaur and Isher dressed in the finest clothes and jewelry and all-around people gather in the traditional Rajasthani attire.

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