Gangaur is a festival celebrated in the Indian state Rajasthan and some parts of Gujarat, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
Gangaur is colourful and 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 with a good husband, while married women do so for the welfare, health and long life of their husbands and for a happy married life. People from Rajasthan when migrated to Kolkata in West Bengal started celebrating Gangaur. This celebration is now more than 100 years old in Kolkata.
The festival celebrates the union of Shiva and Parvati which gives young girls and boys an occasion to interact with each other. It is an elaborate occasion and there are several rituals associated with it. These rituals include:
- Collecting ash from Holika Dehan and burying seeds of wheat and barley in it and protecting them by watering till the seeds germinate.
- Songs in praise of Shiv and Parvati are sung by women who also carry pots on their heads.
- Women make clay images of both Shiva and Parvati.
- A procession is taken by young girls and all of them place an earthern pot with holes and lamp inside on their heads. They distribute cash and other gifts on their way.
- The final day of the festival sees images of Gauri being taken out in a procession accompanied by camels, bullock carts, horses and elephants. The procession is symbolic of return of Gauri to her husband's (Shiv's) home.
- To mark the end of the procession, the girls break their pots.
Apart from these rituals, newly married women fast for the whole eighteen days of the festival and even unmarried women fast and eat only one meal a day in the hope to find a good husband. During this festival in Jaipur, a popular sweet dish called 'Ghewar' is distributed between families, relatives and friends.