Swarna Gauri Vratha

Introduction

Swarna Gauri Vratha is a festival when goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva and the mother of Lord Ganesha is worshipped. This festival is celebrated predominantly in South India on Bhadrapada Shukla Trithiya (3rd day of Bhadrapada Masa, Aug- Sep).

The festival is celebrated as Hartalika Teej in States such as Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra. It is believed that Goddess Gauri comes to her parents’ house just like any other married daughter would come to her parents’ house and Her son Lord Ganesha, comes on the next day to take Her back to Kailasa.

Significance of the festival

Goddess Parvati is worshipped as Gauri, an incarnation of Aadhi Shakti Mahamaya. Married women observe this Vratha praying for the longevity of their husbands, wealth and prosperity. Young girls also observe this festival for getting good husbands. Goddess Gauri is worshipped for courage and power. Goddess Parvati descends on earth on this day to answer the prayers of married and unmarried women.

Rituals

The ritual starts on the previous day of the festival with cleaning of the place where the deity will be worshipped. A mandap/mantapa is prepared around a teepoy/table or a wooden chair on which the image of goddess Gauri will be placed. The table/stool is decorated with banana stems and toran/torana made of mango leaves.

On the day of the festival, married women and young girls dress up in traditional new clothes and new bangles. Women make symbolic image of goddess Gauri out of sand (maraLu Gauri) and Turmeric (Arashinada Gauri) or Jala Gauri. A clay image of Swarna Gauri available in the market is also worshipped along with maraLu Gauri and Arashinada Gauri.  

The clay image of the deity along with maraLu Gauri and Arashinada Gauri is placed in the mandap/ mantapa on a copper or a silver plate filled with rice. Lord Ganesh is first invoked to ward off any obstacles in the Puja which is then followed by worship of Goddess Gauri. The goddess  is worshipped with Shodashopachara Puja (Avahana, Arghya, Achamana,Snan,Vastra, changing Janai, Gandha, Pushpa, Dhoop, Deep, Naivedhya, Tamboola, Pradakshina and Pushpanjali).Flowers leaves, turmeric, vermilion, chandan etc are used in the worship. An important part of the ritual is decorating the deity with 16 strands of garland made of cotton. Goddess Gauri is worshipped with either Gauri Ashtothra (108 names of Gauri) or Lalitha Sahasranama. (1008 names). Payasam, Pooran poli, coloured rice, kosambari (salad made using soaked and dried green gram dal),etc along with coconut and fruits  is offered as naivedhya to the goddess.

Dhora Bandana: A thread smeared with turmeric is knotted 16 times, to which a flower is tied. In some places, women make 16 strands of thread and knot it 16 times. The same is placed on two betel leaves and two betel nuts along the right side of Goddess Gauri and is worshipped. At the end of the Puja, women and young girls tie the sacred thread on their right wrist. The thread is tied by others who have performed the Puja, else, husband will tie the thread.

Procedure for tying the thread- Dhora Bandana: A fruit kept on two betel leaves and nuts is given to the women for whom the thread has to be tied. The thread will be touched on both the wrists thrice and then the thread will be tied on the right wrist. Fruit kept in the hands will be given as dhan to a Brahmin or a priest.

Moora/Marada Bhagina: An important part of the celebrations is giving the moora (bamboo plates) decorated with turmeric and vermillion. The moora is filled with nine types of cereals that includes Channa dal, Moong dal, Bengal gram dal, Toor dal,  jaggery, salt, rava or wheat, rice, coconut and 5 types of fruits along with mangala samagriya- consisting of black beads (used in mangala sutra), black bangles, turmeric, vermillion, comb, mirror and a blouse piece. The Moora or Marada Bagina is first offered to the deity and then to Sumangalis.

Newly married women give 5 pairs or 16 pairs of moora to sumangalis. From the second year onwards 5 pairs of moora is given upto 5 years. From the sixth year onwards, 2 pairs of moora are exchanged with Sumangalis.

Another important part of the festival is, parents of the married woman give mangala samagriya like turmeric, vermillion, flowers, 5 types of fruits, to their daughter wishing her long life of a Sumangali.

In the evening, Aarti is performed. Sumangalis are invited home and are given turmeric, vermillion, coconut or two bananas kept on betel leaves and betel nuts along with a blouse piece and bangles. 

Visarjana: Depending upon the family tradition, the festivities are ended by immersing the deity in a pond of water or a bucket of water either at the end of the day of the festival itself  or along with Lord Ganesh who is worshipped on the next day. The images of Goddess Gauri and Ganesh are immersed either on the 3rd day, 5th day or the 7th day or as given in the panchanga (almanac). The deities are worshipped until they are immersed. After immersing the goddess, a piece of the cotton garland is taken and women who performed the Puja tie it to their Mangalasutra. The piece of the cotton garland is considered as the blessings of the goddess.

A ritual observed before Visarjana is Madilu Thumbodu wherein Goddess Gauri is offered mangala Samagriya like Vermillion, Turmeric root, betel leaves, betel nuts copra and rice. This is followed by Shobhalakki (exchange of grains and blessings with Gowri). Two plates are kept in front of the deity. Two bowls are filled with Rice and Rock Salt. Rice and Rock salt is taken in two hands and kept like a cross (X) thrice and the same is emptied into the plates kept before the deity. In some parts, Toor Dal is used instead of Rock Salt.

The festival is observed for 16 years and at the end of the 16th year, if the festival cannot be observed further, then Uddyapane, (formal ending of the Vratha) is performed and the Vratha is ended.

Puranic Reference

Parvati undertook a severe penance to win over the love of Lord Shiva. She did the penance for 16 years, during which She survived only on grass and fruits. Lord Shiva pleased with Her penance finally relented and married Goddess Parvati. This is also one of the reasons for married women performing the Puja for 16 years.

Shanmukha, the son of Lord Shiva asked His father to narrate a Vratha that could be observed by everyone and which would bestow progeny, prosperity and bliss. Lord Shiva narrated the story to Shanmukha as follows:

There once lived a King, Chandraprabha who was ruling Vimalapur, a city on the banks of the Saraswathi River. All his subjects lived happily under his rule. He had two wives. He loved his first wife, the most.

One day, the King entered a dense forest for hunting.  He killed several wild animals such as boar, lion etc. He was tired and was feeling thirsty too. He went in search of water. He saw a pond nearby and descended from his horse to take some water. He saw some women offering Puja near the pond. Curious to know about the Puja, he asked one of the women about the Puja and its significance.

The women said that the Vratha is known as Swarna Gauri Vratha and by performing the Vratha, all the wishes would be bestowed. It is performed on Bhadrapada Shukla Trithiya by married women. They explained the rituals also associated with the Puja. The king was very happy to hear the story. He performed the Vratha with great devotion and tied the sacred thread on his right wrist and came back to his palace.

The king explained about the Vratha to both his wives. The first wife was very angry at his narration, snatched the thread from his right wrist and threw it on a nearby plant which had dried up. After some days, fresh leaves began to sprout from the dried plant. The king’s second wife was happy to see life in the dried plant. She took the thread from the plant and tied it to her wrist and performed the Puja. She was blessed with wealth and prosperity and love of the King.

The first wife, due to her ignorance about the Vratha had to leave the palace. She roamed in forests and had to undergo untold sufferings. As her suffering became unbearable, she wept inconsolably. Goddess Parvati appeared before her and consoled the queen. The queen realised her folly and observed Swarna Gauri Vratha with all devotion. Goddess Gauri bestowed happiness and love of her husband. Both the King and the queen lived happily.