By Pratima Sapkota
Haritalika Teej, the great festival of Nepali Hindu women has finally arrived. It is celebrated in hilly and Tarai regions of Nepal and most of the parts of North India. During this festival, women observe fasting for their health and long life of their husbands. However, customs and culture have changed a lot with time. Teej has spread not only to cities and market areas but also to villages. Today, Teej in the urban areas is becoming more and more popular, and it seems that the western culture has also started mixing-up in the bustle of Teej.
This festival, which expresses the social, religious, cultural identity of Nepali people, carries the history of Nepali women, which is manifested in various forms through this festivity.
According to a legend, Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas, observed fasting to get Mahadev as a husband, and after her fasting completed, she got Mahadev as the husband. Therefore, Hindu women have been celebrating Haritalika Teej to get a good husband too. It is mentioned in various scriptures that Parvati underwent severe penance for 107 births to get Mahadev as her husband, but her penance was completed only in the 108th birth. Following this belief, it is customary for married women to fast for the wellbeing of their husbands and for unmarried women to find suitable grooms.
Teej is celebrated every year on Bhadra Shukla
Tritiya. On the night before means on the Dwitiya woman eats “Dar”. Fasting is observed on the day of Teej. On the third day, the woman observing fasting take a bath and eat food, while on the fourth day of Teej, Rishipanchami, fasting women brush their teeth with 365 dativans, apply mud and bath on the pond and river. On the day of Panchami, seven sages, namely, Kashhyapa, Atri, Bharadwaj, Vishwamitra, Gautama, Jamadagni and Vashishtha are worshiped along with Arundhati, and only eat unploughed rice and vegetables such as crabs grown in a row or single grain . It is believed that eating food cooked by the husband on this day will increase mutual intimacy and harmony.
The red saree worn by women on the day of Teej is considered a symbol of happiness, prosperity, power and good fortune. There is a religious belief that red color provides a kind of power to women.
There is a religious belief that women should fast without water or food during Teej. It is believed that such rituals performed by women during Teej fast, which is meant to be a devotee of men, will bring longevity, good health and progress to the husband.
This festival of increasing mutual love creates an environment where women express their pain. By bringing together sisters who are far away after marriage, this festival gives them an opportunity to lighten their hearts and share about joys and sorrows.
The festival of Teej, which is celebrated by the Hindu community in Nepal, is now being celebrated by other castes as well. Teej is also considered as a fun festival for women, so many young girls also enjoy it. Teej songs used to include differences between children, pain, mother-in-law’s anger, grief, jealousy, etc. but now the themes of Teej songs have also changed. Most of the women who are stuck in the business of hearth-square and house-keeping open their hearts on Teej. At present, there is no such situation in the homes of all Nepali women. In different society, a group is formed and a program of dancing and eating Dar is performed a month before.
It has not only killed the special meaning and importance of Teej, but has also made Teej full of traditions and culture flamboyant and hectic. “I fast on the Teej for the long life of my husband and of the children,” said Married woman Pramila said. “I am fasting on the Teej from the year when my first period start and I don`t eat anything on the fasting day” said unmarried girl Sunita adding “I want a husband like a Shiva”.
Teej should be refined in such a way that traditional values and methods do not die away. Teej should not be made flamboyant and extravaganza in the name of modernization. It is necessary not to distort the original flavour of the festival so as to revive the cultural importance of this festival.