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, 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 girls 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