Swarna Gauri Vratam is observed on Shukla Tritiya tithi. On this day, the Sun is in Leo. It is also the day before Ganesha Chathurthi in the month of Bhadrapada (September – October).
Swarna means gold, while Gauri is a name for Parvati and Vratam means Fast. It honors Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Gauri is another name for goddess Parvati and the Tritiya tithi is associated with her. Gauri represents fertility, virtue, conjugal felicity, power and asceticism. It was Lord Shiva who spoke about the importance of Swarna Gauri Vratam to Lord Murugan. Parvati wished to marry Shiva but he did not return her love as he was grieving the death of his wife Sati. Parvati was determined to marry Lord Shiva, hence she started doing severe penance in a forest. Single women observe this in order to get married.
This vratam brings wealth and well-being to those who observe it. According to legend, the Vrata is so powerful that it can even make a dry tree turn green with foliage. Supposedly, unmarried women who observe this fast will be fortunate enough to get good husbands while married women will enjoy a peaceful and blissful married life.
On this day, people worship a golden idol of Goddess Parvati along with the Shiva Linga. In many places, clay idols of Goddess Gauri and Lord Ganesha may be worshipped too. After the worship, the idols are immersed in a pond. According to a legend regarding Swarna Gauri Vratam and Ganesh Chaturthi, Goddess Parvati came to earth to answer the prayers of women, both married and unmarried, during Swarna Gauri Vratam. After Gauri Vrat day, comes Ganesh Chaturthi day on which Lord Shiva sends Ganesha to fetch his mother, Parvati, from earth.
How to Observe the Swarna Gauri Vratam
This fast is mainly observed by women in Karnataka and a few other places in South India. It differs from region to region and community to community.
On the day of the vrat, the women clean the house well and bathe after which they wear nice clothes. The pooja can be performed either at home or at a temple.
Often, a small makeshift shrine is built using the stem and leaves of the banana plant. This is decorated with tulsi, turmeric, mango leaves and sandalwood paste.
The next step is to install the idol of Goddess Parvati. It can be either made from turmeric powder- or one can buy an idol of Parvati and decorate it with turmeric. After this, the idol is kept on a bed of rice. A Shiva Linga and Ganesha idol can also be placed along with Parvati’s idol. To decorate the idols, flowers and green leaves may be used.
For the pooja, a 16-knotted thread is made and people tie it on their hands. (It is probably symbolic of the 16 years of intense penance performed by Goddess Parvati to get Lord Shiva as a husband).
Special pooja plates or thalis are prepared using various items which is called “bagina.” The pooja items include turmeric, a mirror, kumkum, bangles, comb, rice, cereals, fresh cloth, coconut, jaggery, the 16-knot thread and 16 leaves and fruits of different kinds. One plate is for Goddess Parvati and the others are given as gifts to married women. The preparation of this plate of bagina varies from region to region.
During the main pooja ceremony, the idol is bathed in milk, curd, ghee, water and honey. This is followed by the offering of aarti and the singing of bhajans ( hymns).
Women may also recite the Parvati mantra:
Om Sarva Mangala Maangalye, Shive Sarvaartha Saadhike
Sharanye Tryambake Gaurii, Narayani Namostute
(Goddess Parvati represents the auspiciousness in all auspicious things. She is the consort of Lord Shiva, who grants each and every desire of one’s heart. I take shelter at the feet of Goddess Parvati. I bow to the great mother, Narayani)
This powerful mantra may be recited 3, 12 or 108 times.
Many kinds of dishes are prepared on this day, especially with rice. An important custom is the giving of gifts by the parents of married women. Recently married girls also gift “bagina” to older, married women.
The fast is observed during the day and the women take food only after sunset.
The belief is that unmarried girls will get good husbands and married women will enjoy a blissful family life when they observe this pooja.