"Teej" is the fasting festival for women. It takes place in August or early September. The festival is a three-day long celebration that combines sumptuous feasts as well as rigid fasting. Through this religious fasting, hindu women pray for marital bliss, well being of their spouse and children and purification of their own body and soul.
Traditionally, the ritual of Teej is obligatory for all Hindu married women and girls who have reached puberty. Exception is made for the ones who are ill or physically unfit. In such circumstances a priest performs the rites. According to the holy books, the Goddess Parbati fasted and prayed fervently for the great Lord Shiva to become her spouse. Touched by her devotion, he took her for his wife. Goddess Parbati, in gratitude sent her emissary to preach and disseminate this religious fasting among mortal women, promising prosperity and longevity with their family. Thus was born the festival of Teej.
The first day of Teej is called the "Dar Khane Din". On this day the women, both married and unmarried, assemble at one place, in there finest attires and start dancing and singing devotional songs. Admist all this, the grand feast takes place. The jollity often goes on till midnight, after which the 24 - hour fast commences. Some women without a morsel of food or drops of water while others take liquid and fruit.
Gaily dressed women can be seen dancing and singing on the street leading to Shiva temples. But the main activities take place around the Pashupatinath temple where women circumambulate the Lingam, the phallic symbol of the lord, offering flowers, sweets and coins. The main puja (religious ceremony) takes place with offerings of flowers, fruits etc made to Shiva and Parbati, beseeching their blessing upon the husband and family. The important part of the puja is the oil lamp which should be alight throughout the night for it is bad omen if it dies away.
The third day of the festival is Rishi Panchami. After the completion of the previous day's puja, women pay homage to various deities and bathe with red mud found on the roots of the sacred Datiwan bush, along with its leaves. This act of purification is the final ritual of Teej, after which women are considered absolved from all sins. The recent years have witnessed alteration in the rituals, especially concerning the severity, but its essence remains. No matter how agonizing the fast may be Nepalese women have and will always continue to have faith in the austerities of Teej.
Article by Padmakshi Rana
Photographs collected from Deependra Bajracharya and Min Bajracharya.