Gauri Puja, also known as Jyeshta Gauri puja is a three day festival, celebrated by people of Maharashtra. It is held during the ten days festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. It begins on the sixth day of the bright lunar fortnight in the month of Bhadrapada (August-September), according to Marathi calendar and ends on the eighth day of the same month. People who celebrate Gauri Puja are blessed with health and wealth.
It is believed that Gauri comes and resides with her devotees in this festival thus a special importance is given in keeping the house clean and decorated with lights and flowers. The house is cleansed by sprinkling water and throwing rice in every corner.Though on a large scale, people consider Gauri as Ganesha’s mother but in some communities she is given the status of his sister and is believed to follow him wherever he goes. Thus the festival is considered as the homecoming of Ganesha’s sister.
People bring idols of Gauri in pairs which can stand for many different forms of her and install them at their homes. They draw the impressions of her footsteps on floor using powdered colors as it is considered auspicious. The idols are specifically brought in by married females of the house who first clean the area of worship and then place the pair of idols made up of clay or turmeric. People may also use Gauri’s drawings made on stones. Some may even use a mask of Gauri which is then placed on the top of Terda plant, also known as Balsam or balsamina plant and treat it as an idol. Devotees may also prefer using 5 or 7 pebbles symbolizing the Goddess.
The idol is decorated with beautiful and colorful traditional clothes and garlands made of fresh flowers also adorn her. A large variety of fruits are placed in front of the idols as an offering.
The idol of Gauri is offered special prayers. Married women offer turmeric and vermillion first to the Goddess and then distribute them among each other. Number sixteen plays an important role in the Puja. People offer prayers to the Goddess after lighting sixteen lamps. They also prepare sixteen types of various dishes to first offer the Goddess and then distribute them as prasadam.
Finally after paying tribute and performing all the rituals, the idol is submerged into nearby water bodies. People sing and dance with joy and request her to visit them again the next year. While performing the process of submergence, one should chant 108 names of Gauri, e.g.,
Om Tripurayai Namah
Om Virajayai Namah
Om Saraswatyai Namah
Om Aaryayai Namah
Om Deekshayai Namaha
Devotees collect some pebbles from the water bodies and bring them back home as the reminder of the three joyous days they had spent with Gauri.
Marathi calendar- Marathi calendar is followed by the Marathi community. It is similar to the Hindu calendar with only difference in the pronunciation of some names of the months.