Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap

Urbanisation, modernisation, computerisation and globalisation – the results of advancement in standards of living have both good sides and bad. One of negative manifestations of modern day living is that it is causing a downfall in the popularity of many customs and rituals that have been adhered to for centuries. While some of these rituals have their basis in myths, some others have meaningful motives behind them. Thankfully, there are some among us who do all they can to keep these rituals alive, if only for the sake of keep the history alive.

Around the month of Shravan, Hindus perform many different pujas and ceremonies. One such ceremonial is called Mangala Gauri when newly married Hindu girls perform the worship of Goddess Gauri successively for the first five years, on every Tuesday, in the month of Shravan, one of the months of the Hindu calendar. While Mangala denotes Tuesday, Gauri stands for promoting happiness, success and good fortune. To ensure immunity of widowhood and to pray for the well being of their husbands, newly wed women observe vrata (fast) and perform an aarti of Goddess Gauri. After the prayers, the girls sing and dance to traditional folk songs the whole night to celebrate the occasion.

On August 19, 2003, many Marathi women from Thane city danced merrily – they played games and sang traditional folk songs. In an attempt to bring back the lost glory of the Mangala Gauri, a ceremony was organised by women of the Rotary Club of Thane at Sahyog Mandir premises. While urban women hardly remember the ancient songs, dances and games, it was a folk dance troop from Vile Parle called Japurja Mandal, who managed to pump in the spirit by putting life back into an age old tradition. The troop, comprising mostly of middle-aged women, strive hard to keep the many ancient Hindu traditions alive.

The 20-odd women from Japurja Mandal did a fantastic job at Sahyog Mandir. They sang songs and enacted age-old parodies that had the attendees in splits: fights between mother- and daughter-in-law, a little boy bickering with his mom, small skits from the life of Lord Krishna. The women also mimicked the posture and gait of animals like peacock, tortoise and rabbit. According to them, ancient women used such occasions to unwind physically and mentally and these little games gave them the much needed work out. There was a session of ukhana where women would bring up the name of their respective husbands, but in a poetic manner, which was almost always humorous.

In the opinion of Dilip Doman, former president of the Rotary Club of Thane, "Some of the dances and acts performed by the troop were easier said than done. In spite of a regular exercise routine, I doubt if anyone of us could do those backbreaking, neck-straining moves with such grace."

In olden times, early marriage would deprive a girl of her friends and loved ones. Occasions such as Mangala Gauri would give them an opportunity to visit her parents and meet her childhood chums. "The song and dance ritual was a celebration of meeting up with childhood friends. Even older women enjoyed such occasions as they had little by way of social life otherwise," explained Ashwini Tambe, first lady of Rotary Club of Thane, who also participated in the Ukhana by mentioning her husband’s name in a humorous and poetic, albeit appreciating manner. "For us, the celebration was refreshing in the sense that it brought back memories of childhood and also revived the many legendary stories like those of Lord Krishna and his life" she added.

In the olden days, Mangala Gauri was a strictly women-only affair, but these days many men join the celebrations too – most of them do so for understanding of the ancient rituals so that they can enlighten their own kids.

The women of Japurja Mandal are invited by many tradition-loving-but-extremely-busy urban people who have lost touch with the ancient customs and rituals. These women remember every ancient song, dance or ritual that is associated with occasions such as Mangala Gauri and as such are doing a fine job of bridging the gap between the past, the present and the future.

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