Why Gangaur festival is so special to Bachhawats?

Why Gangaur festival is so special to Bachhawats?

Though the people of Bikaner celebrate several festivals, the ones that warrant a special mention are Gangaur  celebrations of Bachhawat families. During medieval period, in late 16th century, Raja Rai Singh was the ruler of Bikaner and Karam Chand Bachhawat was his Dewan (Prime Minister). It is said that there were three main idols of Gauri, also called Gavri / Gavre in Bikaner. One idol was possessed by the ruling family, second by Dewan Karam Chand and third by the ancestors of Chandmal Dhaddha. All three Gavries (Mata Parvati) were brought from Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, separating them from their respective Isharji (Lord Shiva). This idol of Gavri is more than 500+ years old.

Gangaur is a festival of both maidens and married women. Women attired in their best costumes and jewellery, pray to Gauri, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. This eighteen-day long festival begins a day after Holi in the month of Chaitra (Feb-Mar). Married women pray for the well-being and long life of their husband and maidens, the young ladies, seek the blessings to get their dream life partner. Grateful to Ujjawal, Dharmshree and Deepak Bachhawat of Bikaner for connecting missing links of this story and the photographs.

This festival is dedicated to Goddess Parvati – the consort of Lord Shiva. All three important Gavries in Bikaner are brought in procession by their respective families, accompanied by merry making and dancing women, to Junagarh Fort for Khol Bharai (similar to Goad Bharai or baby shower) on the last day. The Royal Gavri has a full entourage of palace guards, band, camel chariots, nobles attired in white and ladies following with Gavri idol.

It is said that Raja Rai Singh had an eye on the Gavri of Bachhawats, as it was most beautiful and adorned with best of costume and jewellery. Dewan Karam Chand Bachhawat, smelt of likely foul play during Khol Bharai. So, he ordered his confidante senior family priest, Purohit Bhadoji Bhadani to ensure proper security and safe return of Gavri to Bachhawaton ki haveli (mansion) after the ceremony. It is said that Bhadoji was himself a well built and tall person with dedicated guards around him. The safe return was ensured with great style and finesse. Around 1620 AD, when the Bachhawat families in Bikaner were deceitfully destroyed by the royal guards, then Bhadani Purohit family were made the custodians of Bachhawaton ki Gavri and is being kept in the temple run by Bhadani Purohits.

Khol Bharai in Bachhawaton ka Chowk

Today, in 2018, there are less than 30 to 40 havelies of Bachhawats in Bachhawaton ka Chowk at Bikaner. Just about 15 families reside in Bikaner and rest all have migrated to greener pastures, like Kolkatta, Raipur, Chennai, Jaipur, etc. Every year, in turn, the idol of Gavri is brought to the home of one Purohit Bhadnai family from Bhadani Mandir on Sheetla Ashtmi day and kept there for the duration of the ceremonies, culminating on Teej (seventeenth day), in Khol Bharai, which means to fill the lap with abundance. On Khol Bahari day the idol of Gavri is brought to Bhairoji ki Chowki in Bachhawaton ka Chowk. The Khol Bharai function is like a mini wedding of sorts where a large gathering of friends and family are invited. On Chawth (eighteenth days), the last day, the Gavri is taken in procession to Junagarh Fort and ceremony of feeding water to the idol at the nearby well (Choutina Kua चौटीना कुआ) is carried out. On completion, the 500+ years old idol of Gavri is returned to the temple and rests till next year.

One of the prestigious Agarwal family of Bikaner, Bhikharam Chandmal Bhujiawala also reside in Bachhawaton ka Chowk, opposite Fusraji Bachhawat (father of Maneckji and grandfather of Vikram & Amitabh Bachhawat of Kolkata) haveli. Every year the Agarwal family too joins Bachhawats in Khol Bharai of Gavri and final day procession. During the festivity time the Bachhawat family members visit each other’s havelies and pay respect (धोक और मुजरा) to elders. Traditionally it used to be an all-woman affair. However, men from close family circles also join the celebrations. The Bachhawat men stand guard to Gavri mata with sword in their hand and help receive gifts and offerings to Gavri. These families are also known as Talwaria Bachhawat. Once the celebrations are over, the Gavri is returned to Bhadani mandir with fanfare and the offerings remain with the host Bhadani Purohit family.

We are going there next…. Are you?

Gangaur celebrations take place all over Rajasthan and it’s one of the state’s most important festivals. The most notable celebrations happen in Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Nathdwara (near Udaipur). But you can’t beat Bachhawaton ki Gavri in Bikaner.


5 thoughts on “Why Gangaur festival is so special to Bachhawats?

  1. I am currently in Melbourne, Australia on holiday as my family( parents and brothers) live there . Back to London next week.

  2. That is a great time to visit London as the weather will be warm and beautiful. Please feel free to ask me for suggestions for vegetarian restaurants and places to visit in London.
    You have my e mail address.
    Have a lovely day.

  3. I always wondered what gangaur festival was about (being a Gujarati I am not aware of this festival).
    Thank you for explaining. Not living in your home town, You must be missing all these festivals .
    Living in London, we do celebrate as many rituals and festivals as possible and keep in touch with our roots.
    Have a great day sir.

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