Indian Festivals

Mangala Gauri - A festival for women

Mangala Gauri,the goddess of this festival arrives in the month of Shravan, August this year - in all its splendor when Mother Earth is contented after the monsoon showers and is decked in green robes dotted with the rainbow hues flowers and blossoms.

The women of Maharashtra, proud of their culture and traditions go all out to install the image or idol of Goddess Gauriwith all the rituals, pujas and fanfare along with the chanting of mantras and the ringing of puja bells on every Tuesday in the month of Shravan.

The priest is invited to conduct the proceedings of worship. It is a festival of young married women who are supposed to celebrate the event for the first five years of their marriage. Invitations go from a family to invite some young girls. The girls start arriving by 8.30 or 9 a.m. in the morning.

The ceremony starts with washing and anointing the idol of the goddess with 16 auspicious or holy items, for example, milk, honey, sandalwood paste, kumkum, itar or scent. Then the deity is covered with special leaves like tulsi (basil).

Offerings of fruit and other sweets are placed in a silver tray in front of the deity. The platform and area are decorated with rangoli designs and flower petals. Some designs take the theme of Shiva Pindi, a reproduction of the emblem of the Lord with flowers and the naga hood with ketki leaf. After the puja ceremony is overarati is sung by everyone, by holding a silver thali that contains an oil lamp, camphor, and colored rice grains. Everybody in the family prays together to receive the blessings of the goddess.

After lunch they go home to return by evening for a gala night of pharal, snacks with music, singing, dancing and playing traditional games such as zimma, fugdi.The goddess is supposed to be entertained whole night. At dawn another pujaand arati is performed, tea is served and the guests depart after paying obeisance to the goddess and thanking the hostess, mother or mother-in-law of the newly married girl of the family. This ritual carries on in turns and next Tuesday they go to another house.

There is a legend connected with this festival. One girl's husband was to meet an early death as predicted. However, because the girl and her mother had observed this festival with all faith and devotion, the Goddess Mangala Gauriherself had fought Yama the God of death, and the girl's husband was spared. The Mother-in-law of the girl touched the daughter-in-law's feet and blessed her for saving her son's life and both the families came together to celebrate. So Mangala Gauri is supposed to unite both the families and bless them. Lord Krishna is supposed to have narrated this story to Dharmaraja.

Even now after a girl has complected five years of observing the festival a ceremony is performed which is a fitting finale to the grand festival in a married girl's life.