Rajasthan may be India's driest and most arid state, but when it comes to sheer colour and exuberance, it's hard to beat. And Rajasthan is best seen in all its colours at the time of Gangaur, the spring festival dedicated to the goddess of abundance, Gauri (Parvati). Gangaur is a largely female-centric festival, in that most of the festivities and pujas are conducted by women. The fortnight leading up to Gangaur is marked by fasting, daily pujas of Gauri, and on the day of the festival itself, a bejewelled and beautifully clothed idol of the goddess is the centrepiece of an elaborate procession.
Although Gangaur fairs are held throughout Rajasthan, some towns in particular are known for the fair: Udaipur (where a boat procession makes its way across the Pichola Lake), Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Nathdwara. Among the Girasia tribals of the Sirohi - Mt Abu region, Gangaur festivities carry on for more than a month, when devotees carry decorated idols of the goddess from village to village, finally returning to the village they started from. During this period, unmarried men and women of the tribe choose their mates and elope - a custom which has prevailed through the ages and is more or less expected during Gangaur.