If you’re travelling to India for the fun and drugs of Holi, stay on a couple of days to watch Rajasthan celebrate Gangaur. Essentially a celebration of womanhood, it defines and honors the role of women in Rajasthani society. What that means is that it is in fact a celebration of marriage and a woman’s ultimate achievement of being a good wife.
Gangaur comes from combining the names for Shiva-Gana- and his wife Parvathi-Gauri. Gauri personifies the ideal wife, embodying purity and austerity. According to legend, these are the days on which Gauri goes back to her parents home for a few days, until her husband comes to collect her and take her back to their marital home. The departure is marked with colourfully bedecked processions trooping through the streets to the sound of drums. Each city puts its own spin on it, with Udaipur’s women lining up on the shores of Lake Picchola in their finest clothes to set off fireworks and as a boat procession moves down the water. In Jodhpur the women sing as they carry water and grass in brass pots. Jaipurs winding procession moves through the city with elephants, horses, folk artists, palanquins and chariots in tow.
The festival begins with clay idols of the godly couple being installed and decorated in every home. Wheat grains are sown in small earthen pots, the grass from which is later used in the rituals. While newly married women fast for the entire 18 days for the health of their husbands and their marriage, unmarried women also restrict themselves to one meal a day in the hope of finding a good match. They spend their days gathered together singing traditional songs to keep their minds off their empty stomachs. On the second day, known as Sinjara presents arrive from the daughter-in-law’s parents ranging from sweets to clothes and jewellery.