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Gangaur Festival

Gangaur, celebrated with vigour all over Rajasthan, is an important spring festival. The women invoke goddess parvati to bless them with everlasting marital bliss. Let us take a look at the celebrations in the remote village of Dundlod.

As we were driving through the barren tract to Dundlod, a little known village tucked away in the Shekhavati area of Rajasthan, we saw a brightly attired Rajesthani woman plucking flowers from the acacia tree. We stopped to photograph her and talk to her. She told us that the flowers were an offering to Gaur or goodess Parvati, who is worshipped during the festival of Gangaur which is an annual highlight of the sleepy little village of Dundlod.

We reached Dunlod in the afternoon. This village, located in the Jhunjhnu district of the state of Rajasthan, was founded by Thakur Kesari Singh, who also built the castle in the year 1750 A.D. around the fort are the havelis or mansions of the rich. This castle, as well as the havelis, like many others in the Shekhavati area, are beautifully decorated with intricate frescoes and murals which attract tourists from all parts of India and abroad. We found that the village was bustling with the preparations for the last day celebrations of the Gangaur festival.

Gangaur, which is essentially a spring festival, is widely celebrated all over Rajasthan by the rich and the poor. It is a time when the women of Rajasthan invoke Gaur or goddess parvati-the consort of issar or Shiva, to ensure everlasting marital bliss. Lasting a period of 18 days the festival commences on the day after the Holi festival. It is believed that during this period goddess Parvati had returned to her parental home to bless her friends with marital bliss. On the last day of her stay, she was given a grand farewell by her loved ones.

Gangaur was celebrated as the state festival of the erstwhile state of Rajputana and each ruler took great pride in celebrating the festival with pomp and pageantry. The farewell given to Parvati on her last day was re-entered in the form of a magnificent procession on the final day of the festival. This tradition is still a part of the festivities of the Gangaur festival in the village Dundlod.

We decided to go straight to the castle of Dundlod where the main function was to take place. When we reached the castle the courtyard was the center of activity where camels, horses and a camel cart were being decorated enthusiastically. The royal family members were personally supervising all the arrangements for the evening spectacle. Insight the castle, the maids were adorning the family images of Gaur and Issar with precious family ornaments and new costumes. After the images were beautifully decorated, the guards shifted them to the courtyard of the Rawala or the ladies chamber.

Then the ladies and young girls, who were getting dressed on the first floor, descended to participate in the celebrations. They were elegantly dressed in red which is considered an auspicious colour for the festival. A large number of village women carrying offerings for the goddess also arrived eagerly on the scene. Finally the ceremony began. First the Thakurani or the senior-most lady of the Dundlod family among with her relatives worshipped the images, followed by the village women. The women offer a kanchli or the traditional bodice to the goodess. The actual significance of this is not known but it seems that since a majority of village women were poor and could not afford the traditional ensemble, they offered only a kanchli which became the traditional offering over a period of time.

After the ceremony was over, the images were transferred to the caparisoned camel cart with the image of Issar facing the exit and that of Gaur looking towards the castle-symbolic of a girl’s longing for her parental home. With the vibrating sounds of drums and showering of coins, the procession slowly started moving out of the castle courtyard. In the meantime the royal ladies had moved to the high castle terrace to view the grandeur of the procession and the village folk filled the terraces of the building on either side of the road as well as the bylanes to catch a glimpse of the procession. There was festivity and excitement in the air and as the procession moved out of sight, I realized the importance of this joyous festival for these isolated village dwellers.

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