Jyeshta Gauri Puja is the popular Vrat observed in the month of Bhadrapada in the state of Maharashtra. It falls during the Jyeshta nakshatra and hence known as Jyeshta Gauri Vrata. Goddess Gauri or Gowri is another name for Goddess Parvati. Three days Vrata Puja is performed by married women/special decorations are done, and married women invite their relatives and neighbours’ to participate in the festivities. Haldi-Kumkum ceremony is an important event of the day. After the ceremony, several offerings are distributed among guests.
Jyeshta Gauri Vrat and fast is kept by the women to get blessings from Goddess Shakti, the ultimate power of the Universe. They believe that worshiping Goddess Gouri will fill their married life with happiness and remove all their upheavals. Unmarried girls worship Devi Parvati on this day to get appropriate life-partner. Goddess Parvati is a consort of Lord Shiva. She fulfils the wishes of devotees.
Gauri Puja is also considered as Upasana of Goddess Lakshmi in some regions. As per the legend, once the Deities were being harassed by the demons. Deities prayed to Goddess Srimahalakshmi. Appeased by the prayers, Srimahalakshmi vanquished the demons on the day of Ashtami, that is, the eighth day of Bhadrapad and relieved the Deities of the danger. In the memory of this incident and for the protection of their husbands by Srimahalakshmi, the women perform the Vrat of Jyeshta Gauri on the day of Shukla Ashtami of Bhadrapad.
Celebrations and Rituals:
Jyeshta Gauri brings auspiciousness and prosperity. Jyeshta Gauri Puja Avahan involves bringing of two idols of Lord Ganesha. A special puja is performed on the day, to welcome Gauri. It is believed that Goddess Gauri is another name of Goddess Parvati, the mother of Lord Ganesha. Some devotees also address her as Goddess Mahalaxmi. Goddess Gauri is worshipped and offered food consisting of sixteen types of vegetable dishes, sweets, rice preparations and fruits. The idols of Jyeshta Gauri is brought into the pairs. They are known as Jyeshtha and Kanishtha. The idols of Gauri are brought around two days after the beginning of Ganesh Chaturthi. It is kept for three days. The first day is the Avahana, next day it is Satyanarayan puja, and on the third day, Gauri is immersed in water.
This puja is performed as per the tradition of a particular family. Hence, there are different ways to perform the rituals.
Gauri Avahan or Welcoming of Gauri:
Two married women bring the two Gauri idols to home. One entry from the front side of the house and the other one from the back side. Devotees draw the footprints of Goddess Gauri with Turmeric and Vermillion while bringing the idol. They put the idol on each footstep drawing and offer Haldi-Kumkum and Akshata and chant welcome mantras.
Gauri Pujan: The next day is Gauri puja. There is a tradition to prepare 16 vegetables, sweets, Puran-Poli as a grand meal to offer Goddess Gauri. The host invites married women for Haldi-kumkum in the evening.
Gauri Visarjan: If the devotee brings the clay idol they supposed to immerse in the water. If they are doing puja on reusable idols, they just offer Dahi – Bhat [ yoghurt –rice] Naivedya to conclude this puja and take down the idols. Special food is also prepared during the period. Gauri Puja is also considered as Upasana of Goddess Lakshmi in some regions.