Bikaner, Apr 1 : The Gangaur festival that marks the end of winter and the onset of spring season is being celebrated with great fervour in Bikaner.
The 18-day festival started with the subsequent day of Holi.
The festival is of immense significance for Rajasthani women who believe that if unmarried girls observe the rituals, they will get married to spouses of their choice. Those who are already married observe a fast seeking longevity of life for their husbands.
The festival provides livelihood to many artisans who engage themselves in painting and decorating Gangaur idols.
"We mainly use 'moti' or beads to make ornaments for the idols. The ornaments consist of bangles and necklaces. From morning till evening, we can make at least twenty idols. We spend Rs 100 on making and decorating one Gangaur," said Usha Jain, an artisan.
The shopkeepers are the happiest lot, as they earn a huge profit by selling these idols during this festival.
"We sell each Gangaur for rupees three hundred to rupees two thousand according to the work and decoration on them. The cost of a pair even goes upto rupees four thousand. We sell two hundred to two hundred fifty pieces in a day. We make these idols throughout the year. Their sale is not much throughout the year, but during the festival their sale is bound to be maximum," said Sharmila, a shopkeeper.
The State tourism department organises the festival, which attracts thousands of residents and foreign tourists.
Gangaur festival is widely acclaimed and celebrated throughout the Rajasthan. The heritage behind the festival comes from the mythical legend of "Gan" or Lord Shiva and "Gaur" or Gauri, his consort Goddess Parvati.
Legend has it that Parvati, in one of her forms as Gauri, underwent intense meditation and penance in order to win Shiva as her consort.
Gangaur symbolises marital happiness achieved by Gauri. While married women evoke the blessings of Gauri and pray for the long life of their husbands, unmarried girls pray for a good husband.
During the festival, females apply mehendi (henna) on their hands and feet. The unmarried girls spend the evening carrying ghudlias (earthen pots with a number of holes all around) on their heads with a lamp burning inside them and singing songs. Roaming around in the streets, they collect small presents of cash, sweets, jaggery, ghee and oil.
The ritual of carrying ghudlias in the evening goes on for 10 days that is till the end of the festival. On the last day, girls break their pots and throw the debris into a well or a tank.
The high point of the festival is during the last three days. Womenfolk (both married as well as unmarried) beautify the statues of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. In the afternoon, a procession is taken to a garden, tank or a well, at an auspicious hour. In the procession, the married women carry the images of Shiva and Gauri on their heads.