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The intricacies of Gauri Puja

Festivities in India involve a lot of rituals and intricate devotions. Ganesh Chaturthi also has its own share of traditions and intricacies. Today we see the devotion of the parents of Ganesha, his mother Parvati and father Shankar in the form of the ‘Tai’
Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
Goans are all set to begin the celebrations of the Ganesh Festival this year, from Monday September 5. The festival is for one and half day but can be extended from five to twenty one days. However, there is a traditional celebration that marks the beginning of the festival the previous day or on the same day as the Ganesh’s installation day, depending on the Hindu calendar.
This is a celebration in honour of mother of Ganesh, Gauri (Parvati) – the consort of Mahadev (Shankar), one of the avtaars of Shiva. On this day the women folk have a special puja in her honour. This puja is performed to request her to bestow blessings on their spouses and give them a long life. The women have to observe fast throughout the day and are supposed to not eat any cooked food. They should only drink tender coconut water. Many also consume fresh fruits.
The day is referred to as the Tai in Goa. Sometimes this Tai coincides with the installation day of Lord Ganesh. A coconut symbolises Shiva. A bundle of different kinds of herbs, leaves of medicinal trees and plants are wrapped in a leaf of the Kasaalli shrub. The bundle signifies Parvati and contains arjun patri, chiddo, dhavi patri, turmeric leaves, etc. These icons are traditionally known as ‘Gavar Mahadev’.
On the morning of the Gauri puja, the women after having a bath are ready to perform and install Parvati. The privilege of performing this puja is only meant for savaishini women, that is, married woman whose husband is living. Paper picture of the deity is put on a ‘paat’ or wooden board and besides it five coconuts are kept which represent Mahadev. These coconuts are called vaina and the performance of the puja, vainachi puja. The fibre of the coconuts is removed and on the ‘eyes’ kukum and haldi is put.
Bhramins in particular remove all the fibre from the coconuts that represent Mahadev. Others keep the fibre on the top. Around each coconut a thread is tied which is called ‘ansa dhori’. Five black beads are also tied to the dhori. In case of a newly married bride, the beads may be of gold. This dhori is tied by the woman to her mangalsutra after Gauri is removed from the worship board and kept near the tulas of the house at the chant of a prayer ‘Gauri, Gajanan moria’. This is done on the evening the Ganesh idol is immersed. While performing the puja a niranjan (metal wick lamp) is used which is lit with ghee and cotton vat (wick). The five coconuts are distributed to close relatives, may be the sister-in-law, brother-in-law’s wife and brother’s wife, one to the sister, another to a close relative. This coconut is then used to prepare a sweet dish.
The special naivedya presented to Gauri on the day of puja is a dish prepared with five types of vegetable. Other food can also be presented as naivedya, which may include varan, mugachi gatti, chonneacho ross. Some also make special drumstick leaves vegetable. The sweets of the naivedya are the patolyo and the pais. However, it is interesting to note that the food presented to Gauri is insipid. When inquired why it is insipid, I was told that when she was pregnant and carrying Ganesh, she had the urge (duvao) to eat insipid food.
In case Gauri puja is on the same day of the installation of Ganesh, the women folk who worship her are kept busy. The reason being the naivedyas for each of them vary. As already mentioned the food has to be insipid for Gauri. To simplify the women take aside a small quantity of food before adding salt to present the naivedya. But, the sweets for Ganesh are of five varieties. His offering includes twenty one modoks of puran, five neureos of puran, five purnavadda, five chipleo puran and five kormolla. If the stuffing is done with coconut instead of boiled gram dal (puran), then five dry fruits are added to the coconut mixture.

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