Festivals are a way of life, not were celebrations in Mewar. It has been rightly said that here there are “Saat Vaar and Nau Tauhar”, seven days in a week but nine festivals. Among the fairs, the biggest in Lake City is the internationally well known Mewar Gangaur festival that is celebrated to welcome the advent of spring with great enthusiasm.
The long history of Gangaur festival reveals how the Maharanas enjoyed the celebration in the company of the public even in the Samanti raj. At about three in the afternoon ‘nagaras’ were sounded and that served as an invitation to all those authorized to participate in the procession to reach the royal palace in traditional dress. Sitting in a palanquin the Maharana used to come near Darikhana and there he would ride an elephant. With the sounding of the second ‘nagara’ and twenty one canon salute from Eklinggarh, the procession started. The procession was led by Nishan Ka Hathi on which rode a man carrying a flag with the emblem of the Sun. Then came the army band of Sajjan Infantry and Bhupal Infantry. Reputed persons rode horses in zari clothes and decorated with attractive ornaments. Gorgeously decorated was the Gangaur Ghat on the bank of Lake Pichhola where dancing girls performed Ghoomar dance to welcome the Maharana. Alighting from the elephant, the Maharana would ride a boat covered with a canopy. The other barge was occupied by the seveenth Umrao who was a Muslim and other officials. After a leisurely trip the boats were anchored at Bansi Ghat or Jag Niwas according to the Maharana’s wish. There was a lot of singing and dancing on the boats. To add to the gaiety of the festival, there was scintillating firework display on some other ghats.
Also celebrated on Vaisakh Krishna Tritia was Dhings Gangaur that was started by Maharana Rajsingh First on the insistence of his Choti Rani. So it is called Dhinga Gangaur i.e. forced Gangaur.
The festival starts the day after Holi when the worship of Gan, a symbol of Lord Shiva and Gauri, His consort begins Unmarried girls worship Gangaur for being blessed with good husbands while married women do so for the welfare of their spouse and family.
A special fair held only in Udaipur is the Choti Gangaur fair on Seetla Saptami at Moti Chouta. During the reign of Maharana Fatehsingh there was a good painter named Sharma who suggested that a fair could be organized at Moti Chouta for buying Gangaur idols. The maharana readily accepted the proposal. A huge number of gaily dressed women with Pooja Ki Thali come to the fair, select the idols of their choice, worship them and take them home singing and dancing. Generally, the idols are made of Khirni wood. However, for getting special wishes fulfilled, wood of other trees is also used. The size in quarters viz one and a quarter inch etc. is preferred. The auspiciousness of a idol is also believed to depend on its colour.
The idols of Gangaur are tastefully decorated in the morning of Teej and offered a huge variety of delicious dishes. Gangaur songs are sung. As evening approaches, the idols of Gangaur and Isar are taken out of homes and temples and the streets begin to reverberate with the music of the bands. Attractively dressed women join the procession holding the idols on their head. Girls lead the procession carrying Severe, bunch of flowers, while women dance singing special Gangaur songs. Gangaur idols and Jhankis of different Samaj of Udaipur in the procession are some other attractions. Passing through various streets on the way the idols reach the open Jagdish Chowk where there is a lot of singing and dancing. The procession culminates at Gangaur Ghat where the idols are worshipped with elaborate rituals and deep reverence. The procession of the royal Gangaur on the special royal boat proceeds from Bansi Ghat to Gangaur Ghat. On a separate boat folk artists present fascinating cultural items. Spectacular fireworks display is an added attraction.
As part of its Mewar Festival, the Rajasthan Tourism Deptt. organizes a programme at Gangaur Ghat in which folk artists from different parts of the country present fascinating cultural items. The best entries in the Gangaur procession are given prizes. There are prizes also for competitions like the best foreign couple dressed in Rajasthani clothes and Pagri tieing by foreigners as well as local people in fixed time.
The whole city including Indian and foreign tourists join in to savour the joy of this extremely enjoyable extravanza.