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Gauri is a female deity who is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Renowned for being gentle and nurturing, she is extremely fair and charming. Her radiance is in direct contrast to her alter ego Goddess Kali, who is dark and of fierce disposition. It is said that Lord Shiva, in a lighter vein, once rebuked Parvati for being too dark. This upset the Goddess and she resolved to do penance in a bid to acquire a fair complexion. To the chagrin of Shiva, she retired to the forest and performed severe austerities for hundreds of years. Shiva’s counterpart, Lord Brahma was immensely pleased with Parvati’s penance and granted her boon. Soon Parvati was blessed with a lustrous golden complexion and she came to be known as Gauri. This resplendent color of the Goddess came to be associated with fertility and plenty, while also representing a bountiful harvest. Devotees who come to worship her offer her pots of rice as a token of their gratitude.
Goddess Gauri is depicted with four arms, with two arms wielding a pellet drum and a trident in each. Her other two arms are in the Abhaya Mudra and Varada Mudra, which symbolize the boon giving gesture and the fear dispelling gesture respectively. She is also portrayed seated on a cow which serves as her mount. Milk and mirrors are the symbols associated with her and she is shown attired in green garments with ornaments draping her body. She is also portrayed with a huge head dress on her head and her charming face is always glowing with the radiance of youth. Lions serve as her attendants, while her golden complexion is suggestive of her connection with the Sun.
The Goddess epitomizes the virtue of austerity, while signifying the importance of hard work and efforts in achieving our dreams and ambitions. She is the very embodiment of purity, indicative of her penance to win the approval of Lord Shiva. Her dedication and devotion to Shiva is unparalleled, and she is often depicted as a young unmarried maiden, willing to undertake severe austerities in a bid to win over her beloved Lord as her husband. She is thus the object of worship for many unmarried girls who wish to acquire a suitable groom. Many revere the Goddess as a symbol of growth and at the same time casting off the old, while also representing the life giving facet of nature.
Gauri is deeply revered by everyone but particularly more so by women, who adore the Goddess for her feminine characteristics. Her importance is underlined by the fact that a festival is also celebrated in her honor known as Gauri Habba. This festival is celebrated for reaping a rich harvest and also for protecting her female devotees. The Goddess is also venerated during the hugely popular nine day Navratri festival. This benevolent form of the Goddess is kind and blesses her devotees with boons, while at the same time punishing evil doers.
Goddess Gauri is widely revered in various parts of India and has several temples dedicated to her. Two of the most prominent are the Mangla Gauri Temple in Gaya, Bihar and the Gauri Shanker Temple in Old Delhi.