Shravan (Shraavaṉ) marks the arrival of the monsoons in Western India and women in Maharashtrian households come together to celebrate the joyous occasion. Mangalagaur is the festival of the Goddess Gowri, which falls in the month of Shravan according to the Lunar calendar. Women get together, pray, make merry, and play games — and men are not allowed to participate!
Why is Mangalagaur celebrated?
All of Shravan is a month of fasting and each day marks a different occasion. Every Tuesday is saved for Mangalagaur. The name of the festival is derived from the word “Mangaḻwaar”, meaning Tuesday.
It is a celebration for newly married women for the first five years of their marriage. Other women from nearby households join in to pray and take part in the festivities. Women pray to the Goddess Gowri (or Annapurna), a form of the Goddess Parvati for a happy marriage. Traditionally, the woman prays in her own home on the first and last Tuesday of the month, visiting other households for the other Tuesdays. She also observes a fast during the day.
Traditionally, this festival was a way for newly married women to get closer to the women in her family and make friends with other women in the neighbourhood. Even for older women, it meant leaving their stressful home lives for a day.
Mangalagaur celebrations are vibrant and lively
When Maharashtrian women get together to celebrate Mangalagaur, they sing folk songs and partake in folk dances. Out of the many dances, fugdi (fugaḏee) or phugadi is one of the most popular. Women generally perform this dance in twos. Women hold each other’s hand in a crisscross formation while rapidly spinning around. Fugdi can be danced in bigger groups as well.
The songs are playful and accompanied by short acting sequences. Some of these include the popular nach ga ghuma and latya bai latya. Everyone is dressed to the nines in their traditional colourful nauvari (naoovaree) — nine yard — sarees and jewellery. Women usually wear a braid of fragrant jasmine flowers in their hair, called a gajara (gajaraa).
One of the legends associated with the festival is that of a merchant named Dharampal. He and his wife were wealthy but unable to have a child. Finally, his wife gave birth to a baby boy. But the boy was cursed to die of a snakebite when he turned 16.
The boy’s parents arranged a marriage for him before he turned 16 years old. As it happened, the girl had been blessed, saying that she would never become a widow. With this, the boy’s curse did not come into fruition and they both lived long and happy lives. The fasting days of Mangalagaur are believed to make happy marriages and ensure a long life.
Mangalagaur is one of the oldest traditional festivals that Maharashtrian women celebrate. We don’t commonly see these festivities everywhere, rather in pockets and communities. Many Maharashtrian communities overseas come together to organise a Mangalagaur festival and celebrate their heritage.