Gowri Habba (Kannada: ಗೌರಿ ಹಬ್ಬ) is a Hindu festival celebrated a day before Ganesh Chaturthi. It is a significant festival in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh & Tamil Nadu. It is minor festival and known also as Hartalika in Maharashtra. Goddess Gowri (Gauri), the mother of Ganesha and wife of Shiva, is worshiped throughout India for her ability to bestow upon her devotees courage & power. Hindu belief has it that Goddess Gowri is the very incarnation of Aadhi Shakthi Mahamaya. She is the Shakthi of Lord Shiva. It is believed that on Thadige, or the third day of the month of Bhaadrapada, Goddess Gowri comes home like any married girl comes to her parents' house. The next day Lord Ganesha, her son, comes as if to take her back to Kailasa.

The Swarna Gowri vratha is performed on the occasion, to appease the Goddess.

Swarna Gowri vratha

On this day, married women, after bath, wear new/grand clothes and dress up the young girls of the family. Then they do the 'sthapana' of either jalagauri or arishinadagauri (a symbolic idol of Gowri made of turmeric). These days beautifully painted and decorated clay idols of Goddess Gowri can be bought at the local market. The goddess' idol is mounted in a plate, with a cereal (rice or wheat) in it. Asthis puje is to be performed with 'suchi' (cleanliness) and 'shraddhe' (dedication), the ladies go to temples or to another person's house, where the puje is performed according to set procedures or do the puje in their own homes. A mantapa, generally decorated with banana stem and mango leaves, is built around the idol. The Gauri is decorated with garlands, decorations made of cotton and ladies get their 'gauridaara' (a sacred thread with 16 knots ) tied to their right wrists, as blessings of gauri and as part of the vratha. The gauridaara has 16 knots and each knot is worshipped with mantras, during the performance of the vratha.

The most interesting part of the festival is probably offering the bagina. At least 5 baginas are prepared as part of the vratha. Each baagina usually contains a packet of arshina (turmeric), kumkuma, black bangles, black beads (used in the mangalsutra), a comb, a small mirror, baLe bicchoLe, coconut, blouse piece, dhaanya (cereal), rice, Tur dal, green dal, wheat or rava and jaggery cut in a cube form. The bagina is offered in a traditional mora (winnow painted with turmeric). One such bagina is offered to Goddess Gowri and set aside. The remaining Gowri baaginas are given to married women.

Gauri habbada - mangaladravya

Another specialty of this festival is that the 'tavaru maneyavaru'(the married woman's parents/brothers) send gauri habbada - mangaladravya to the married girls of their family. Some send money as representation of mangaladravya. This good practice remains unchanged and keeps people closer. Newly married girls give 16-jothe baagina to sumangalis (married women) and obtain their blessings. One baagina is kept for Gauramma also. Main food items in this festival's feast are the delectable beLe hoLige/Kaayee-hoLige, Huggi/chitranna and Bajji.

Newly wed couples are invited to the in-laws home, and served with varieties of Festive Food. In the olden days, newly wed couples had to wait till Gowri Habba to consummate their marriage. The logic behind this practice is that if a child is conceived during Gowri Habba, which falls during the winter, the child would be born nine months hence, during the summer, when it would be less prone to infections. This practice has been in place for years, but has declined in recent times due to modernisation.

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