Teej, the most auspicious festival of Nepalese Hindu women, is dedicated to Lord Shiva- the destroyer or the transformer among the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. This three-day long celebration combines sumptuous feasts and rigid fast and is observed with austerity and fanfare. With the red saris, glittery clothes, pote, sindur, colors, folk music, songs and dance, all Hindu women sing, dance, make merry, fast and pray for their husbands’ longevity. Commemorating the union of Goddess Parvati with Lord Shiva, the festival is celebrated for marital bliss, well-being of spouse and children and purification of own body and soul.
To be precise, like its name Teej (third), the festival falls on the third day after the moonless night and the third day after the full moon night of every month. The first day of Teej is called “Dar Khane Din” when all the family members gather at one place and eat delicious food, fruits and desserts. Women wear the finest outfits of red color, visit their parental homes, sing, dance and enjoy the grand feast. The celebration continues till midnight and after midnight the 24-hour fasting starts.
The second day is the most important day of Teej which is dedicated to fasting and prayers. Most of the married women observe strict fast without eating and drinking single drop of water while some others take liquid and fruits. On this day, both married and unmarried women happily dress in red, load their hands with red bangles, beads and some even decorate their palms with beautiful designs of Mehendi/henna tattoos. After bath and other purification rituals, the fast begins. Lord Shiva is prayed to by chanting “Om Namah Shivaya” and offering Bilva leaves, white flowers, water, honey and milk. The devotees visit a nearby Lord Shiva’s temple singing and dancing all the way. In Kathmandu, most of the women visit Pashupatinath Temple where they worship the Shiva lingam, the symbol of the lord Shiva, offering flowers, sweets, water, honey and milk, praying for Shiva’s upon their husband and family. In the evening, the most important part of the pooja is observed by burning the oil lamp which should be burning throughout the night. It is a tradition of giving the diyo of teej by her mother in law to the married woman and the unmarried women observe fast to be blessed with a caring and a loving husband.
Similarly, the third and the last day of Teej festival is Ganesh Chaturdasi. In the early morning before sunrise, women take bath and do the puja once again to the diyo and goddess Parvati. The most important part of this puja is a banana and holy basil (Tulsi patta) leaf. Only after this puja, women take solid food. Following the great festival, the fourth day is the celebration of Rishi Panchami. The seven sages of Hindu religion and other various deities are worshipped by women with a belief of seeking forgiveness for the sins of whole year and even of previous year. They take holy bath with red mud and sacred Datiwan bush and sit and offer prayers to the sages and deities.
Looking back to the mythology, goddess Parvati was in love with Lord Shiva since her childhood. She wanted to marry Lord Shiva and for this she observed fast and prayed frequently to Lord Shiva on the third day after the moonless night. Impressed by the love and devotion of Parvati, Shiva became happy and accepted her as wife. In gratitude, goddess Parvati sent her emissary to disseminate this religious fasting among mortal women, promising prosperity and longevity with their family. Since then the fasting and celebration started.
Since the ancient time till today, the festival of Teej is celebrated among the Nepali women with gusto. In the recent years, there is significant change regarding the strictness of fasting but the spirit has remained the same. Though the most of the modern women do not believe on the concept of strict fasting, they still celebrate Teej as a celebration of sisterhood, strengthening of relationships, and above all as a symbolic handing down of cultural values.