‘GANGOUR’ The festival of Isar and Gour.

Gangour is one of the widely celebrated festivals of Rajasthan. The festival marks the beginning of spring season in the state.It’s commenced at the mid of march with a series of celebrations that last for almost 18 days!

The word ‘Gangur’ is made up of two words,’Gana’ and ‘Gaur’. ‘Gana’ is synonymous with Lord Shiva and ‘Gaur’ stands for Gauri (Parvali), the goddess Gauri who symbolizes soubhagya (marital bliss). The Gangour festival is widely acclaimed and enthusiastically celebrated throughout the state of Rajasthan. Gangaur is a festival of the women folks; Gangaur is celebrated in the honor of Goddess Gauri, who is considered as the symbol of virtue, devotion, fertility and a perfect married woman.

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The small Idols of the Shiva and Gauri are usually made of wood or clay mud. These divine male and female entities are called ‘Isar’ and ‘Gauri’. It is mandatory for a newly- wedded girl to observe the full course of 18 days of the festival and keep fast to ensure her marriage do well,  even unmarried girls fast and eat only one meal a day.

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Now, let me take you through the procedures of celebrations!

The celebration begins almost a fortnight before the main day of the festival.Girls worship the goddess all through the fortnight before the main event day.   A group of women from the town holds a procession and carry colorful Idols of Gouri. Many people from nearby villages come to take part in the procession and roam around with them from village to villages.

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On the main day of this festival, women wake up before sunrise. Prior to the worship, newlyweds and unmarried girls leave the house with an earthen pot with a lamp lit inside, called ‘Ghudlia’, on their head to near the pond and garden, to collect fresh water and fresh flowers respectively.While coming back to the house, women chant hymn and (mangal) songs.

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After making home holy by sprinkling this water, women construct twenty-four finger-high and twenty-four finger-long square base of the holy clay in the solitary place.During this Pooja as a symbol of virtue, sixteen dots by  kuncum, sixteen dots by mehndi  and sixteen dots by kajal  are made.

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Women Decorate the Isar and Gauri with beautiful clothes and ornaments specially made for the occasion.the beautifully decorated idols look like they are brought to life by these girls and married women. Women worship ten forms of Mother Gauri: Gauri, Uma, Latika, Subhaga, Bhagmalini, Manokamna, Bhavani, Kamada, Bhog Vardavini and Ambika, with great devotion and faith.

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The idol of Isar and Gouri placed on the head of married women are taken in a procession in the afternoon, to a garden, bawakdi or well. Vidaai songs are  sung  as  Gouri departed to her husband’s house, after that they come back to home. These prayers are persisted continuously for 18 days and are concluded with the arrival of Lord Shiva to accompany his bride home.

The married women worship Gauri for welfare, health, and longevity of their husband and cheerful married life. While unmarried girls worship the goddess to get the husband of their choice.They sing Bhajans or devotional songs as part of Gangour Puja.During Gangour festival several fairs or Jatra are celebrated in Jaipur, Udaipur and many other towns in Rajasthan.

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Gauri and Isar idols are taken out for a ceremonial procession through different parts of the city. Once the religious part of the festival is over, time for cultural events starts where the Rajasthani culture is portrayed through songs, dance and several cultural activities.

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On the final day, the procession comes to an end with the Visarjan (immerse) of all the idols in the water of Gangour Ghats. The women bid farewell to Gouri and return back towards their home with teary eyes and in this way, Gangour Festival come to an end.

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‘Kaavad’ A traditional masterpiece of storytelling

Storytelling, it’s a part of Indian rich heritage. It defines our culture and our identity. Storytellers spread the important messages and lessons via their stories, with the help of voice and gestures. They use different mediums along with it like painted scrolls, boxes, dance and music performance or a combination of all to make their message even more crisp and thoughtful. Storytelling is an ART!! And Kaavads are the masterpiece of this Art!

The Kaavad is a portable wooden temple/shrine that has visual narratives on its multiple panels that are hinged together. These panels can be opened into many layers, similar to crossed thresholds of a temple, unfolding its deepest secret.The picture painted on the panels depict episodes of a particular tale or a series of epic stories .‘Kaavad Banchana’, a storytelling tradition, is still alive in Rajasthan using stories of the epics Mahabharata, Ramayana, Puranas and folk traditions are told in a magnificent and astonishing manner.

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The Kaavad-storytellers are called Kaavadiya Bhat.They bring the shrine to their patron’s house to recite their genealogy and stories from the Hindu epic.The Kaavadiyas (storytellers) and their jujmans (hereditary patrons) consider the Kaavad as a sacred shrine, which demands certain rituals to be followed, listening to genealogies, epic stories and making donations. It is believed that listening to stories purifies the soul and reserves a place for the devotee in heaven.The Kaavad tradition is approximately 400 years old and like several other oral storytelling traditions in India, its origin is located in mythology or attributed to a mysterious power.

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Kaavad is made by the Suthar (carpenter) community in Mewar, situated amidst the hills of the Aravalli ranges in Rajasthan. The specific identity of Kaavad makers comes from the place Bassi, the place where Kaavads are originated from. The Suthars of Bassi calls themselves the children of Visvakarma, the God who is considered as the chief architect of the Universe and the father of carpenter community. Out of 25 families of Suthars in Bassi only five to six families are involved in making of Kaavads.

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Kaavadiyas procure Kaavads from the Suthars of Bassi and then travel along with it from village to village to tell a lot of marvelous stories. On his arrival at a village, the storyteller holds the Kaavad against his chest, tilted slightly backward so that everybody could see the mobile Kaavad-shrine.During Kaavad bhachana, he sits crossed legged and keeps Kaavad over his lap.

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The story begins by opening the small outer doors revealing the decorations on the outer panels to arouse the curiosity by talking through the highlights of the stories depicted in the Kaavad.The storyteller then opens a ‘donations’ flap located under the decorated panels.The storyteller opens panels, one by one, telling the unveiling the several episodes of the tale.Sometimes a story could last for several days. One Kavad can contain many linked tales.The grand finale of the tales comes as the storyteller opens the final panels to reveal a ‘shrine’ –housing 3D sculptures of the hero, his wife, companions, and other characters of the story, where everyone lives happily ever after.

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