Hats off to all the women who starve themselves for the long and prosperous life of their husbands. My hearty wishes to the womenfolk.
But why do women starve themselves on Teej? What does it actually signify for Nepali women?
Teej is a significant festival for women – especially married ones – where the unmarried woman prays for a good husband and married woman pray for the longevity of their husband’s life while celebrating womanhood. With this generic definition cleared, let’s move on to some specific questions like:
Why do people Starve themselves (fast) on Teej
How is Teej celebrated?
Why is Teej Celebrated?
The short answer for this – to pray for the long life of a husband or to get a husband with the quality of Lord Shiva.
Now, why would anyone want their husband to have the qualities of Lord Shiva, right? For all we see, he is a naked ascetic, a mendicant beggar and who has smeared his body with the ashes of many corpses. Not an ideal partner you would want right? And still, thousands of women worship Lord Shiva and prays that they get a husband like him.
Why? Let me tell you the myth behind the Teej.
When Sati Devi died sacrificing herself in anger against her father, Lord Shiva was devastated. He destroyed Daksha Prajapati in the aftermath of his beloved’s death. Since then, he had been living in exile. No home and no prediction to his moves.
Then enters Parvati, the reincarnate of Goddess Sati. She was destined to be Lord Shiva’s wife. But that had to wait. Lord Shiva wasn’t any ordinary being. He was the Divine and getting to meet him was out of the question. The story says that Parvati was always convinced that she was going to be Lord Shiva’s wife, bless her reincarnated soul. But well, she was a normal lady until then, so getting on terms with lord Shiva didn’t quite make sense.
So, in those ages and times, the heavy endurance of fasting and devotion proved the power that an individual was what they said to be. So, to prove that she deserved lord Shiva as her Husband, Parvati went into heavy fasting and prayed for a long time. In fact, she had to go through more than a century of devotion to meet her goal. Only then did Lord Shiva acknowledged her to be the rightful owner of his heart.
The depiction of this scene is that Lord Shiva came out of his reverie and looked for Goddes Sati. His observation through his third eyes showed him that she had reincarnated as Parvati, the daughter of Himal. Upon this realization, he set out to meet her. And this was just when Parvati had completed her Haritalika Teej Fasting.
The happy ending came when both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati reunited and went to live in their Palace of Kailash Parvat.
Since then, Parvati gave out the knowledge of this fasting process that enables the devotee to meet their soulmate just as Lord Shiva. Practically understanding it means that the divine power behind Haritalika Teej Fasting directs a lady to her future husband just as Goddess Parvati did.
How is Teej Celebrated?
Now that you know why Teej is celebrated, let’s talk about How is Teej celebrated. As per the tradition, the festival of Teej is celebrated for three days and each day has its own significance. Let’s see what they are.
Day 1: Dar Khane Din
A community of women gathers on this day. Dressed in their best clothes, they have a party with singing and dancing. This day is meant to be a celebration of having a great husband or a male figure in their life who cares for them.
In response to this, the men gather to host the feast. The women, who usually are the caretakers of the house spend their day celebrating. On the other hand, it is the men who take care of the household chores and prepare the female feasts.
This day not only lets women celebrate having a male figure who cares for them, but it also lets them let go of their worries and enjoy.
Day 2: Fasting
After eating and dancing the whole day, the next day is the day of fasting. Women fast on this day primarily for two reasons: to get a good husband or to pray for a long life for their husband. So we can see both married and unmarried women observe this fasting ritual.
Now, depending on where you are located, the severity of fasting will vary. Some cultures don’t permit women to drink or eat any liquids for the entire day, while others allow them to eat fruit and drink liquids. Whether or not they adhere to the rules depends on their health conditions as well as how strictly they follow them.
The fact that each of us is built differently should go without saying. There are many women who can fast, but there are others who physically cannot. But regardless of which method of fasting they use, what matters at the end of the day is their devotion.
In addition to fasting, they dress well and visit the Shiva temples nearby while singing and dancing. The Pashupati Nath temple in Nepal attracts the most devotees. The women offer prayers with flowers, sweets, and coins while circumambulating the Shiva Linga.
The women also hold a puja at Shiva Mandirs, offering flowers, fruits, garlands, etc., and praying to Lord Shiva and Parvati for a happy life for their families.
Side note* During the process of fasting, if you are planning to eat fruits, banana is forbidden. Besides bananas, you can consume other fruits. Along with this, it is also advised to avoid consuming heavy meals during “Dar Khane Din” before fasting.
Day 3: Rishi Panchami
After the completion of Puja, the women pay homage to saints and sages. This festival revolves around the purity of women and is the time when they cleanse themselves for the possible “Sin” of touching men during menstruation.
Today, we know that menstruation is just a phase of womanhood and not a sin. However, since this festival is an ancient one, it is still observed even if it has lost its meaning.
It is on this day that Nepalese women sing and dance to the songs that define the role of women in society. In the past several years, female-focused songs have gradually evolved to be more about the experience of women than the role of women – a step in the right direction. Especially in modern times, when gender roles are not as clear cut as they used to be, and there is a large grey area in between.
How Teej is Celebrated in Modern times?
As for the gist of the question, we have already covered it. Despite modernization, Teej remains fundamentally the same.
On the first day of Teej, women celebrate having a good father figure and a loving lover in their lives. On the second day, women pray for a good husband, the long life of their husband, and the blessing of good family life from Lord Shiva and Parvati.
On the third day, they pray and ask for the blessings of Saints and Rishis while voicing their emotions and expressions through songs. But while the core remains the same, there have been some significant changes in how the Teej festival is celebrated.
Firstly, fasting rules aren’t as strict as they used to be. Drinking certain liquids and eating fruits are allowed during the day for women. Moreover, unlike in the past, women don’t have to fast if they don’t want to. However, it also depends on how religious a family is.
The second thing is, the whole concept of “women pray to ask forgiveness for the possible sin of touching a man during menstruation” has become outdated. There are a few rural areas and families with stereotyped views of women, but most people do not adhere to this belief because they have more knowledge of how the female body functions. Although this concept has been somewhat displaced, there are still quite a few people who persist in believing in this “menstruation is a sin” myth due to a lack of knowledge.
Last but not least, due to the blurring of gender roles in modern times, the essence of songs in Teej has changed. While in the past they used to be about “Gender roles and Values” in modern times the songs in Teej are all about enjoyment and emotions.
In general, modern Teej celebrations are a good thing- and people are not bound by traditional beliefs and stereotypes and are adapting well to the change of era.
When is it celebrated?
Teej is celebrated around the month of August/September or as per the Nepali Calendar, during the month of Bhadra. The exact date and time of Teej depend on the year so be sure to check your calendar when the month of Bhadra nears.
For 2021, the date of Teej is on 9th September or 24th Bhadra, 2078.
The Gist is,
Teej is a festival that falls during the month of Bhadra. While there are some aspects like clearing the sin of menstruation that are troublesome, the concept of the festival is more or less all about Women. They sing, dance, eat, drink and overall enjoy during the three days of Teej.
Furthermore, unless the organization is small where females outnumber the males, the holiday observed on Teej are specifically meant for females – males need to work during this festival.
Hope you found this informative. If you have any suggestions for us, do let us known them down in the comments below. And as always, thank you for reading till the end.
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