Every state of India has one festival, more than any other, that truly captures its spirit.
For Rajasthan it is Gangaur- the Spring Festival dedicated to Gauri, the loving wife of Shiva and the Goddess of Fertility.
When Parvati married Shiva she accepted all his followers (gana) as her own and became Gana Gauri, goddess of the people. Hence the name Gangaur.
For eighteen days from the day of Holi which signals the start of Spring, the women of Rajasthan lose themselves in the legend of the Goddess.
Beautiful clay or wooden idols of Gauri and Shiva are made in every home and lovingly dressed in fine clothes and jewelry. As the women prepare the goddess for her wedding to Shiva, they honour her by fasting as she had once done to win his heart. The days are marked by pujas and evenings by colourful processions.
At sunset the women dressed in their colourful ghagras walk down the streets, carrying earthen pots with the lamps on their heads, singing songs of Gauri and collecting gifts and sweets from elders.
After a fortnight of celebrations the festival ends on the first day of the month of Chaitra, the first day of the Hindu New Year. On this day the beautifully decorated idols of Gauri are carried around the towns and villages before being taken to a lake to be immersed. Gauri is thus bid farewell as she leaves for her husband’s home in the Himalayas.
While Gangaur fairs are held in many towns and villages, those in Jaipur and Udaipur are most well known and hundreds of locals and tourists gather to watch the final processions.
This year Gangaur will be celebrated on the 13th of April.