The Hindu legend says that with great determination and exemplary austerity Goddess Parvati won over Lord Shiva and this day is celebrated as Hartalika Teej. It is celebrated on the third day after the new moon in the Indian/North Nepali Lunar month of Bhadrapud. Teej also refers to the monsoon festivals, observed particularly in western and northern states of India and Nepal. The festivals celebrate the bounty of nature, arrival of clouds and rain, greenery and birds with social activity, rituals and customs.
A THREE-DAY FIESTA
The shimmer of gold and pearl illustrates the festival of Teej. The market sprung up with traditional clothing and jewelry. The city is alive with the color red and the scent of henna.On Tij, the women and older girls put on their best saris, preferably of red or pink (colors associated with auspiciousness and fertility), and adorn themselves with jewelry and makeup. The married women wear all the markers of that status: the red vermilion powder (sidur) in the part of their hair, a red hair braid, red glass bangles, and a style of necklace (tilhari).
Day 1: Dar Khane Din
Women go to their parents' home (maita). Delicious delicacies (dar) are prepared, everyone gathers around, and a surreal moment of euphoria prevails. It prepares them for the next day’s ordeal.
Day 2: The Day of Fasting
On the second day, women and girls observe a strict fast without consuming even a drop of water (nirjaliya), for the longevity of their spouses’ lives, while some do not prefer to go to this extent. They visit the nearby Shiva temples and make offerings of flowers and fruits to the deities. In Hindu mythology, Parvati prayed while making a Shiva lingam out of Ganges sand and silt; this lingam is still crafted today during the pooja.Shiva was so impressed that he gave his word to marry Parvati. A diya is to be lit for the whole night and is supposed to never vanish. Women collectively dance and sing.
Day 3: Rishi Panchami
The third day of the festival is when women take a holy bath and are fed water by their husbands. Finally, the Hartalika Teej is complete and gratified.
Voice of Womanhood: Past and Present
This century-old festival has been the dais for the commentary of women’s lives through their own voices. It was and is an instrument for the representation of women, submissive or bold, sad or happy. In the annals of history, women from the villages in Nepal elaborated the songs to strike at patriarchy, societal hypocrisy, dudgeon, dismal anecdotes, and sometimes godly and political issues. It signified the adverse condition of women's freedom. In one of the old Teej folk songs:
Time has refashioned. Gender expositon is quite visible and is manifested through various beauty contest that takes place in the Gorkha community in my hometown- Dehradun, where newly wedded women compete for the ‘Teej Queen’. They are determined to win the criterias of knowledge, wisdom, analytical skills and charm. The discourse of these competitions provide a fresh dynamics and declaration of true womanhood, liberal and traditional. Festive carnivals are organized with major economic businesses of traditional food, clothing, crafts, jwellery, etc being headed by Gorkha women.
Hartalika Teej also serves to further cement the India-Nepal friendship with Gorkha diaspora being the adhesive and to also relive the reason that cultural bonds transcend manmade margins.
With the same strength that Goddess Parvati achieved Lord Shiva, the contemporary Gorkha women strive for egalitarian society, where her perspectives are at par with her significant other metamorphosing themselves from Parvati to Shakti. It is truly in the sense of social, cultural, economic and political context, the definition of women through the teej festival is positively transforming.
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