Gaura Parba, the festival of Gaura, is mainly celebrated in western, mid-western & far western regions of Nepal. Passed down to generations from over four hundred years, which starts on the Krishna Janmasthami day.
Gaura, a special festival for women, seems to have originated first in Baitadi & Doti Districts from Kumaun (in India) and spanned to the rest of the western regions of Nepal. But when dug down the history, Doti people were found celebrating Gaura Parva long before it existed in Kumaun.
The festival name varies in different regions. Alternatives names for Gaura could be ‘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 (August/September) i.e. on the day of Krishna Janmashtami, and lasts for 3-5 days.
The word ‘Laligaura’ means Parvati in red where Lali is Red, Gaura is Parvati. The Laligaura here represents all the brides in Hindu culture. So Gaura is celebrated only by married women (brides). Note that Nepali Hindu brides wear red on their wedding day.
How is Gaura Parba Celebrated?
Gaura Parba is celebrated for five consecutive days with all the rules and regulations. The date of this festival starts from Chaturthi, followed by Biruda Panchami, Surya Shasti, Gaura Saptami, and Durvasthami. Women start their fast on Gaura Saptami continuing until the last day i.e Durvashtami also known as Krishna Janmasthami.
On the first day of the gaura festival, women soak Biruda, the 5 types of pulses viz. wheat, black lentils, peas, brown lentils, and guraus in a big copper pot.
On the second day, they clean the soaked Biruda at a nearby water spout. Biruda is considered the symbol of the Panchakshara Shiva Mantra. This Panchakshara in Sanskrit means “five letters” and refers to the five holy letters Na, Ma, Śi, Vā and Ya. This is a prayer to Lord Shiva and is associated with Shiva’s Mantra Om Namah Shivaya. They then take Biruda to the nearest Shiva – Parbati Temple. After finishing the ritual, every woman brings Biruda back home singing and dancing.
On the third-day women collect grasses (Sau, Kurjo, Tulsi, Paddy, Bal) and make a statue of goddess Gauri. They call it ‘Thuli Gauri’ and offer her clothes and ornaments. They put Thuli Gauri on a bamboo basket to worship her. A priest prepares Maheshwar (Shiva) out of the same grasses, after that women worship Shiva and Parbati together. While women worship Shiva – Parbati, men sing and dance the Deuda songs.
On the fourth-day women make yet another statue of Goddess Gauri and call it “Sani Gauri’. They worship Sani Gauri as one of the forms of Goddess Parbati. After applying Sindhur and tika on their forehead, women again dance Deuda. On this day women change to the new “Dubo Dhago”, a thread necklace. It is a tradition that a married woman observing a fast has to chant Gayatri Mantra when donning a new “Dubo Dhago” aka “Kanth Sutra” before she eats her sattvic meal in the evening. She eats only one meal a day during the first three days of the festival. On the fourth day, she customarily observes a full day fast, neither a single drop of water nor a single crumb of food. She at a Gaura shrine worships Maheswar for her family’s good health and prosperity.
On the fifth day, they worship Thuli Gauri and Sani Gauri together. They tie a red cloth around a statue of Gaura Devi and decorate both the statues like a Hindu bride in red clothes and jewelry. The fasting devotees welcome the Gaura idol to her house and enshrine her at a mud-coated ‘Gauraghar”, literally “a house for Gaura”. Gaura idol is made using 5 types of plants and draped with shining silk clothes and placed atop a circular bamboo basket. The fasting women tie a thread necklace called Dubo Dhago which is one of the essentials for the festival. They offer Biruda Sprouts as “Prasadi”, to their husbands and children after the completion of puja.
Prasadi is an offering made to a Hindu deity, usually eatable food items, which is thereafter distributed to the devotees as the deity's blessings.
On the sixth day, they organize the Swayambar (a ceremony to choose a spouse) of Maheshwar and Gauri. After the Swayambar ritual women dance and sing deuda once again. This event can sometimes fall on the fifth day as well based on the Tithi. All women chant Mangal-Gaan, a special song performed by women of Far western Nepal on weddings and auspicious occasions. Mangal-Gaan is rarely performed in other parts of Nepal these days. The song describes the pre-wedding rituals which prepares the bride by anointing her with oil and turmeric.
After the completion of the Gaura Festival ritual on the seventh day, an auspicious date of Gaura Bisarjan is appointed. During the bisarjan (bidding goodbye), the male devotees play musical instruments and the woman sings the Gauri-Maheshwar song called “Fag”. Then the Gaura figure is either immersed in a waterbody or poured on the base of a pipal tree.
Women of Far Western Nepal have worshiped Goddess Gauri (Parbati) asking for the good health, prosperity, and long life of their husbands and children for the past four hundred years.
What is Biruda?
Biruda is also called ‘Pancha Birudi’ because it is a combination of 5 types of pluses where Pancha in Sanskrit means 5. It is a primary food offering of the Gaura Festival offer the Biruda to the idols. It’s believed that this five-pulses mixture brings the family good health and long life because it contains all the essential dietary nutrients. Fasting women eat Biruda on the day of Panchami and distribute it to family members, relatives and friends as prasadi on the last day of the festival.
What is Dubo Dhago?
The Dubo Dhago is the customary necklace for women. Dubo Dhago to women is what a Janai is to men. During the festival, the sacred thread is taken as a blessing of Gaura and is changed annually at the Gaura Festival.
What is Deuda Song and Dance
Deuda, a folk debate, is a combination of dancing and singing and is native to western Nepal. Deuda sang are collections of various folk tales, based on the glorification of the great goddess Gaura. ‘Deuda Khelne’ lit. playing Deuda is one of the main attractions of the Gaura festival.
The Deuda songs are two-line stanzas consisting of 14 alphabets in each line. There are 28 alphabets in the songs all together, in which halanta (a comma) is not counted.
The Deuda dance that expresses emotions like sorrow and happiness of life is danced in circles. People hold each other by arms or shoulders, make a circular chain and in a group, together, bending forward from the waist take two steps to the right side and dip one step backward to match the tune of the song.
Western Nepal districts such as Achham, Darchula, Dailekh, Jumla, Kalikot, Baitadi, Dadeldhura, Bajura, and many other locations have Deuda songs and dances of their own styles.
The Legends of Gaura Parba
Once lord Shiva and Parbati reincarnated as Maheshwar and Gauri in the far western land of Nepal. Growing up they became friends and growing up together they fell in love and Maheshwar went to Gauri’s home to ask for her hands in marriage. Gauri’s mother was infuriated at Maheshwar’s audacity and refused the proposal saying she shall give her beautiful daughter to either the sun or the moon only. After hearing that, Maheshwar revealed his real self, wearing a moon on his forehead, and then the sun came down to his feet. After realizing who Maheswar really was, Gauri’s parents happily married Gauri and Maheshwar, despite Maheshwar being very poor.
After many years, one-day Maheshwar brought home another woman and told Gauri that he married the second time. Seeing that, Gauri with her children went to her natal home. She cursed Maheshwar for the destitute life he had given her and now another wife all her way long. Because of Parbati’s curse, Maheshwar suffered from hunger, his cows suffered and so did his new wife and children.
Maheshwar to atone for his sins went to Gauri’s home to beseech for forgiveness. It’s believed that she took seven days to forgive Maheshwar which is why the Gaura festival is celebrated for seven days.
Likewise, another legend says that King Sahastraarjun went on a rampage and killed all the Brahmins who were granted land by his father. Some of them hid in the forest to save their lives. But King used all his will to search for the hiding brahmins and killed them one by one as he found them. While the massacre was ongoing, the wife of one of the Brahmins made a plea-worship to Goddess Gaura. She blessed the wife with a baby boy. The boy grew up and killed Sahastraarjun. Since that time, women of Far-Western Nepal started celebrating the Gaura Parba for the victory of good over evil.
Another legend has it, that Devas (gods) with Asuras (demons) to get Amrit, the nectar churned out of the Milky Ocean which rendered them immortal. When the demons proved stronger and the gods started losing their power, Lord Vishnu in the guise of Mohini, an enchantress fooled demons, got hold of nectar, and fed that nectar to Devas only.
Unmindful of his own pain and discomfort, Lord Vishnu in form of a turtle patiently bore a mountain on his back, stabilizing it, thereby making it easier for the Devas and asuras to churn the Milky ocean. Vishnu was so comfortable with the constant rhythm of the mountain turning back and forth on his back that it actually lulled Him into a highly meditative, sleep-awake stage. He breathed slowly and deeply and this created gentle waves in the ocean that gave rise to a very comforting, rocking motion that further calmed him!
The churning of the ocean first produced Halahala or Kalakuta, a pot of deadly poison, representing the ocean’s impurities. The poison was strong and deadly which could cause blindness and severe suffocation to all who came in contact with it. At the behest of the Devas and Asuras, Lord Shiva immediately came to rescue and drank the poison. Upon seeing this alarmed Parbati clutched Shiva’s neck in an effort to stop him from gulping Halahala down His throat. Halahala turned Shiva’s throat blue permanently, which is why He is also referred to as the Neelakantha (the blue-throated One). Hence the act of Parbati saving her husband from drinking the world’s poison is celebrated as “Gaura Parba” too.
- “Masino Akha Bhari Doteli Gomara” an article by Jay Raj Pant