Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Teej: Time for Fasting and Feasting

'Teejako rahara ayo barilai, Teejako rahara ayo barilai...,' a special song dedicated to a great Nepali festival 'Teej' can be heard everywhere when the festive season is around the corner. According to the Hindu mythology, Teej is related to the goddess Parvati and the Lord Shiva. It is said that Parvati was in deep love with Shiva but he was not aware of her feelings. To make Shiva her husband at any cost Parvati performed penance on the Himalayas and fasted for many days. Finally, Shiva also got impressed by her devotion and agreed to marry her. Parvati, to express her gratitude, sent her emissary to preach and disseminate this religious fasting among mortal women, promising prosperity and longevity in their families. Thus was born the festival of Teej. On this day, women go to the temples of God Shiva and worship him asking for their husband's long life and prosperity. They are not supposed to eat and drink anything the whole day. They break their fasting only on the following day.

Most of the married women say that they fast and worship Shiva at Teej wishing for their husband's longevity and welfare even today. They do not bother to think whether their one-day fasting really helps their husbands to gain long life. The majority of the unmarried girls say that they fast on this day to get a 'perfect man' of their choice as Parvati got Shiva. Really? A research study is needed to confirm the statement. In my opinion, Teej should be redefined. It has other importance rather than merely fasting for a husband.

Teej must be observed to to keep the traditions alive for generations, but at the same time the prejudices related to this festival must be abolished. For instance, the false beliefs, such as 'one must not eat or drink on the day, if she does so she is believed to be eating her husband's flesh and drinking his blood,' should not be attached to Teej. Shiva clearly does not want his devotees to suffer from thirst and hunger, instead he would love them to pay their true respect to him, to be honest and not to hurt other beings. Similarly, fasting for Teej must not be imposed. A traditional belief is that the ritual of Teej is obligatory for all Hindu married women and girls, who have reached at the stage of puberty. It is entirely an individual's choice if she fasts. Without fasting also she can enjoy every bit of Teej.

The fasting cannot be taken for granted too. One has to assess her strength and health condition first while fasting. There are hundreds of cases when the women have to be rushed to the hospital because they suffer from severe dehydration while fasting without drinking for hours. From the point of view of health, it is good to fast for a day but scriptures do not suggest to continue fasting until one faints. If you are hungry - eat, if you are thirsty - drink, without waiting for your husband's permission for that.

On the dar khane din, a day before the day of Teej married daughters/sisters are invited to their parents'/brothers' place. They all gather together, enjoy dar - varieties of the delicious food. Then all women in the house fast on the following day. In this way, Teej is a good opportunity to bring family members, relatives and friends together. Basically women are busy and surrounded by many family responsibilities regardless of their urban or rural status. They do not get much spare time to involve in social activities. Teej gives them a great chance of socialization. They sing and dance, exchange their feelings and forget their tensions and pains, at least for a day. Teej is a good democratic practice since the time immemorial.
The day can be considered as an occasion to renew the friendship, not caring about the monotonous and never-ending household work. In this sense, fasting and feasting at

(Published in an English Daily The Rising Nepal on Thursday, September 16, 2004)


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I would appreciate any and all suggestions on making improvements (as long as they are viable).