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Everything you need to know about Gaura, the festival of the far west
Hawrry Bhattarai comment 0 Comments access_time 11 min read

As the greatest rituals like Dashain And Tihar are celebrated in almost all regions of Nepal. Gomra or gaura festival is one of the kind, specifically commemorated in western, midwestern & far western regions of Nepal.

In fact, gaura is a name given to religious & cultural rituals celebrated among the kumain female community of far western Nepal & is run from the days yore.

Nepal is a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-racial and multicultural country. Because of the rich diversity in culture & ethnic groups, there are various festivals that have been the core of Nepali culture. Men and women are two major groups conducting all the cultural and religious practices that occur in Nepali society. Nonetheless, the responsibility of performing most of the religious and cultural practices in society go more to women than to men.

Gaura is a religious & cultural ritual based on the ancient story of shiva & Parvati, and it is run solely by kumain group women in far west Nepal.

Another mythology says that the festival has been celebrated for the last four centuries, in memory of Satidevi’s bodily sacrifice to the burning altar and her re-birth from Himalaya Pravat. People believe that this festival not only brings religious belief, brotherhood, but the puja of Shiva and Gauri also brings peace, happiness. So basically, the festival is associated with the story of the success of ‘good’ & the failure of ‘evils’.

Likewise, as per legends, Hindu gods fought against demons to get the nectar out of the ocean which rendered them immortal. When the demons proved stronger and the gods were losing their power, one of the gods, Lord Vishnu, turned himself into Mohini’s female figure and fooled the demons into surrendering the nectar. Later Mohini gave the nectar to the gods to make them immortal & Gaura Parva happened.

Moreover, according to the professor of Sharada Campus Motilal Paneru-Married Women celebrate Gaura for another reason. He says, While the Hindu God Shiva was devastated after the death of his first wife, Sati Devi, she was reformed as Gauri. Gauri wished for Shiva as her husband & she began to pray & started fasting. On the fifth day, she accomplished her mission to become the wife of God Shiva. This is the reason why the day is celebrated in the form of Gaura when married women fast for 5 days.

Gaura Festival- All you need to know

Core Story Behind Gaura

It is said that the gaura originates from the emotional hymns of Lord Krishna to King Yudhisthira, referring to the tragic loss of his parents’ seven children because of the cruel demonic abuse of Kansa towards Basudev and Devaki and change of their fortune from evil to good as a gift of Gaura (far-western) or Habalo pooja(western).

In this ritual, the devotees worship Shiva and Parvati as a groom and a bride in accordance with Hindu marriage culture. Shiva is identified as ‘Mahadev’ or ‘Maheshwar’ and Parvati as ‘Gauri’ or ‘Laligaura’ in far western Nepal.

Meaning of Gaura

The name of gaura varies in different regions, some of the names used for gaura are ‘Laligaura’ ‘Dhurbastami Brata’ ‘Gaura Parva’ & ‘Gomara Parva’ which mean the worshipping of ‘Gaura’, ‘Goma’, ‘Sridevi’ or ‘Uma’(Parvati)-wife of Shiva. However, ‘Dhurbastami Brata’ & ‘Laligaura’ are quite popular among the community as Gaura is celebrated mostly from the Durbastami day of Bhadra i.e. on the day of Krishna Janmashtami and lasts for 3-5 days.

The word ‘Laligaura’ means Parvati in red where Lali = Red, Gaura = Parvati. The Laligaura here represents all the brides in Hindu culture. So Gaura is celebrated only by married women(brides).

Origin of Gaura

Regarding its origin, ‘ gaura’ Gaura ‘Parva’ celebrated in far western Nepal. It seems to have originated first in Baitadi & Doti Districts from Kumaun to other western regions of Nepal. Digging down the history, as per Jai Raj Pant article ’Masino Akha Bhari Doteli Gomara’ says that Gomara Parva had already entered in Doti before it existed in Kumaun, India. In his article, he, on the ground of his interview with the far-western women, claims that Doti was the original place to celebrate Gomara Parva for the first time.

Gaura Celebration: How is Gaura festival celebrated

Throughout far-western, Gaura is celebrated as a special festival, it varies greatly from other festivals. It’s open to women only, from which all married couples take part in the festival.

The women in far-western work hard from dawn to dusk. From cleaning, cooking, collecting firewood to doing farm chores, rearing livestock & caring for their children husbands & elders, women contribute a lot. The five days of gaura Parva serve as a moment of relief to those women in Farwestern region. To celebrate the festival meant solely for them, they get a break from their daily chores.

Gaura Parva consists of five days of fasting and celebrating in the name of a Hindu goddess. Gaura Parva was originally an indigenous festival and has grown to connect women across castes, across the country and across the Indian border.

On the first day of the gaura festival, women soak wheat, black lentils, peas, brown lentils and rhododendron flowers. The next day, the women clean the soaked ingredients called “Biruda” in a nearby water spout. Biruda is considered to be the symbol of Panchakhiri Shiva Mantra. They then use paddy plants to erect and tie a red cloth around a statue of Gaura Devi, the goddess worshipped during this festival.

The second day is a fasting day, women will prepare portraits of Gaura Devi by collectively washing the Biruda in the wee hours at water sources. The women chant these songs while washing act happens-

“Chokho khaai chokho laai birudaa dhuna jaau
Kuldeutaka hukumai le birudaa dhuna jaau
Nangrang kai ki didi baina birudaa dhuna jaau
Nangrang kai ki didi baina birudaa dhuna jaau
Chokho khaai chokho laai birudaa dhuna jaau
Kasudeuko hukumaile birudaa dhuna jaau
Pashupati deeu ka hukumai le birudaa dhuna jaau
Bhokya pet tina kesh birudaa dhuna jaau
Nangrang kai ki didi baina birudaa dhuna jaau”
(Let’s go to wash birudaa eating pure, wearing pure. Several deities have ordered us to do so)

On Saptami day, the married women will welcome the deity of Gaura and create them in the ‘Gauraghar.’ During this cycle, Mangal-Gaan is chanted. Pure mud is spread all over the Gauraghar, and the statue is placed in a jar made of bamboo to worship. The women are carrying out fasts of tie Dubo/Dub Dhago (neck bracelets) which are necessary for the festival. Females find the Dubo as important as Janai (a sacred thread) is for males.

Throughout the third day, in a celebratory atmosphere, the women put the image of Gaura Devi into their households. Then On the fourth day, the women offer the biruda to the goddess. The most important day of the festival.

Next, the community comes up with the traditional song and dance known as the “Deuda.” Deuda is a group dance performed during the festival by the community, in which participants form a close circle with touching their shoulders.

After eating only once a day for the first three days – during the evenings – on the fourth day married women don’t eat at all. They break their fast on the fifth day and exchange the offerings, known as “Prasadi,” with members of their families.

Now the five days of singing & dancing end, they lay to rest the erected image of the goddess in a nearby field, and they bring home the red cloth that had been wrapped around her. Later the entire community performs Deuda. Deuda can last for a few more days to enjoy.

Aajako din hijo ranajhaniya lalo maaita aaiyn re
Raija baabu looli gora ranajhaniya
Laali chha maina chhaumasa re
ranajhaniya
(Gora has come to the home. Stay here for six months)

Significance of the Sacred Thread ‘Dubo’ or ‘ Dub Dhago’

In the gaura Festival, it is customary for the women to tie a string around their necks.
It is similar to wearing sacred thread by men in Janai Purnima. During the festival, the sacred thread is taken as Prashad of Gaura & is changed yearly. This holy thread is important in offering prayers.  During the festival, mostly Deuda songs are performed. Playing ‘Deuda’ is one of the charms of the festival. The Deuda songs are written in Nepali with two-line stanza consisting of 14 alphabets in each line. There are 28 alphabets in the songs all together, in which Halanta (comma) is not counted.

Hiunbhauti malika paddo patan puridaina
Sai durai ma pani durai maya duridaina
(Snowfall in a higher altitude will not be able to bury a ground
Even if a girl and boy are away their love doesn’t fade

Such songs are sung in a question-answer style on-the-spot. There are various dances performed on these songs too. Uses Dedhi Kadam (one-and-a-half step). With the steps — a step forward and a half back is a single, centric dance. People make a circle and dance to the songs.

Differences between Teej & gaura festival

Teej festival Gaura Festival
Women’s festival, in which married women fast for their husbands’ long lives and unmarried women fast for good husbands Just for married women, and they believe that during the festival the goddess bestows her wishes. Taken as a triumph over evil.
Women’s dance & enjoy on typical Teej songs Or any song Deuda dance is a big part of the festival where participants hold hands and form a circle as they step into traditional music.
Women fast without eating or drinking water Involves women soaking grains, taking fast and then eating the sprouts.
Women usually take fast during Teej On the main day, the men take fast too until their wives’ puja ends.
Celebrated for 3 days Usually celebrated for 3-5 days

Facts of Gaura festival

  • Gaura festival resembles Pooja called “Hobalo”(popular in western)
  • Gaura reflects the local culture, customs, literature and identity
  • Gaura is also known as Gamara, Go: ra, Laligaura or Gawara in the far-west, which are all forms of Parvati. 
  • Gaura is believed to mark the end of the rainy season.
  • People show traditional dance forms such as the Deuda, Magal, Phag, Chachari, Dhamari, and Chaliya.
  • Biruda is a five-grain mixture that is then offered to Gauri 
  •  The Gaura festival establishes significant cultural ties between Nepal and India (Kumaun)
  • The Holy Seed Biruda is taken as a Prasad to be eaten in a fried or other manner and some distributed among the relatives
  • Five species of seeds used for Biruda- Guras, Gahat, Maas, peas and maize grains
  • As per Nanda Krishna Joshi(Deuda singer), the gaura festival was brought to the capital by the Upreti family of Kalikasthan in Kathmandu some hundred years ago.

Conclusion

Nowadays, gender inequality is an evil that plagues society even today. people are crying for gender equality. Men & women are fighting for overwhelming injustice these days. ‘Gaura festival’ has isolated itself from this discrimination. Gaura Parva treats both men & women as the two parts of the same coin as they engage in gaura ritual together without any discrimination. This festival represents the solidarity between the genders & yes, it’s an opportunity for communal bonding among people. I hope this festival should be continued even in the days to come.

Terms used in the article

kumain community- Farwestern People(most of the far western people are often called as kumain)

Dubo/Dubdhago- Sacred thread used by women 

This article is written in accordance with the article from Wikipedia, reference blogs, BBC & meeting with locals of far-western

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