Notwithstanding, Goddess Gauri stands on her own as the divine energy of Mother Goddess. Gauri is auspicious and brilliant. She extends her protection to her bhaktas and is swift to punish evil doers. Mother Gauri enlightens the spiritual seeker and removes fear of rebirth by granting salvation. She is the symbol of growth and maturity. That also means she represents new life.
She is symbolic of fertility and motherhood and of the victory of good over evil. In her beauty and grace, She is considered as a perfect wife for Her husband, Lord Shiva. Mother clearly represents purity and austerity. Her mythology does not take her beyond being a Kanya Kumari or unmarried girl who set out to perform severe tapas or penance to marry Lord Siva.
MYTHOLOGY: Legends surrounding Goddess Gauri is most certainly linked to Parvathi’s complexion. Parvati first attempted to seduce Lord Siva. The Lord found her hardly attractive and does not entertain her. He reproached her. This taunt so incensed her that Parvati retreated into forest greens. Amidst nature, she performed a most severe course of austerities. But she was focussed to develop Her spiritual powers. This caught the attention of Lord Brahma. He decided to grant Her one wish. Parvati asked that Her dark skin be taken away, so that Shiva would love Her. Brahma took the darkness and created Goddess Kali with it. Brahma then bestowed that Parvati be shining with golden skin. From these circumstances, She became the Goddess Gauri. That was not enough to distract Siva. Brahma had to send Kama, Rati and Spring to draw the Lord's attention. Thereafter she re-manifests as Parvathi. Nothwithstanding, Hindus revere Gauri as a stand alone Goddess.
THEMES: Goddess Gauri’s themes are spring, protection, fertility, harvest, beauty, humor, youthfulness, wishes and equality. Her symbols are balsam, golden-colored items, milk, mirrors and lions. This fertile Hindu Goddess extends spring-like youth, beauty and tenderness into our lives. Gauri has a sympathetic ear for all human needs and wishes. She can also said to represent sexual restraint and the life giving aspect of Nature.
DEPICTION: In works of art, She is depicted as a fair maiden, attended by lions and bearing wild balsam and a mirror. She was born of a milky sea, and Her name translates as ‘golden one’, indicating a connection with the sun. She is usually depicted with light or golden skin. Because of Her golden color, She is associated with rice and grains, taking on the role of a fertility Goddess. Parvathi as Gauri is depicted wearing a green sari, bedecked in the sixteen love-charms and sitting demurely with Lord Siva. Her favourite offerings are rice based prasada. Bhkatas take the view that she blesses with a good rice crop.
GANESHA CHATHURTI: The deity of Goddess Gauri is also celebrated during Ganesha Chathurti. Both the deities are brought into the home together. This is often a fun affair with drumbeats, songs and music. Gauri’s arrival, usually after two days of Chathurti, to the homes is said to bring health, wealth, happiness and prosperity. The first day puja is the avahana, next day it is Satyanarayan puja and on the third day Gauri is immersed in water. Gouri finds her source in the Puranas. She is linked with Goddess Parvathi, Rajarajeswari and Lalitha Tripurasundari. Married women worship Goddess Gauri with kumkum for marital bliss or sowbhagyam. Unmarried girls pray for good husbands.
GAURI VRAT: This puja of austerity by unmarried women and young girls, is also known as Gauri Parvathi Vrat. In Tamil Vrat is Veratham. Based on Parvathi-Gauri-Siva mythology, unmarried females observe this vrat for divine blessings of obtaining an ideal husband like Lord Siva. The Vrat is observed for five days beginning on the Ekadashi day in the month of Ashada in the waxing phase of the moon. It ends on the day of Purnima. In some places corn shoots are grown in a small pot. The tender corn shoots emerging along with Lord Surya, the Sun God, are worshipped during the day..
Food vrat is observed during the whole day. The night menu would be food made from wheat flour, ghee and milk. Salt is prohibited. Fruits and fruit juices are consumed. At the end on Purnima, Gomata puja is performed. That is in reverence to Goddess Parvathi.
GOWRI HABBA. This is a celebration a day before Ganesh Chaturti. This festival is also known as Swarna Gowri Vratam. Swarna means gold which basically means worshipping along with Sivalinga. Gauri or Gowri Habba is attributed to the South and known as Hartalika Vrat in the North.
Goddess Gauri is worshipped as the wife of Lord Siva and Lord Ganesha’s mother. She is considered to be the incarnation of Adi Shakti Mahamaya bestowing courage and power. Gauri is brought into the homes like an unmarried girl and the following day events depict Lord Ganesha coming to receive and take her home to Kailasa. It is believed that Lord Siva sent Ganesha to bring the Mother home. It is common practice to make beautiful clay idols of Goddess Gauri and Lord Ganesha to be worshipped and thereafter immersed in a pond.
Gowri Puja is shradda or purity and dedication. Sometimes this is a group festival celebrated with friends and neighbours. The house is thoroughly cleaned. A temporary shrine is erected using banana stems and leaves. Alternatively a puja cabinet is used. The deity is either ready- made idols or the indigenous method to make an idol of Gauri. Her deity is decorated with garlands, mango leaves, turmeric, tulsi and sandalwood paste.
A sacred thread with sixteen knots called ‘Gauridaara’ is tied to their wrists. This is supposed to be with the blessings of Goddess Gauri. It is symbolical of Parvathi spending sixteen years in tapas to win Siva’s heart.
Pooja thala with puja items known as Baagina offering is a major part of the celebration. Usually five baaginas are prepared as part of the vratha. Each baagina contains a packet of arshina or turmeric, kumkum, black bangles, black beads which is used in the mangalsutra, a comb, a small mirror, coconut, blouse piece, dhaanya or cereals, wheat or rava and jiggery. Usually there are sixteen different items.
The main puja ceremony involves bathing the deity in milk, ghee, curd, honey and water. Aarti is performed followed by bhajans. The first baagina is traditionally offered to Goddess Gauri and the remaining is given to married women. According to the Puranas, Gauri Vratam bestows wealth and worldly well being to bhkatas who observe it. It is legendarily believed that the vrata is so powerful than even a dry tree will turn green after its observance.
It is to be always remembered that all rituals are man made. They facilitate prayers. Over time the rituals are added or subtracted. Rituals are also regional; some not having any vedic connection at all. These are customary ritual. In Hindu thoughts a simple prayer done in sincerity according to one’s means is sufficient. The core concept of Sanathana Dharma is Brahman and its realization and that should be the emphasis. Rituals may aid to a certain extent provided the woods are not missed for the trees.
By Yogi Ananda Saraswathi