A beautiful rain-washed August morning! Perfect day to usher in festivities with Teej.
Teej, a festival popularly celebrated in Nepal and across various states of North India, by married women for the well-being of their husband and by girls’ seeking a ‘good’ husband, is often scoffed upon by feminists. I didn’t have much regard for the festival either, till I delved deeper into the stories and the legends behind Teej.
The festival of Teej is dedicated to Goddess Parvati and her union with Lord Shiva. Legend has it, Parvati went through severe penance and 108 births before she could be united with Lord Shiva. Since Shiv Parvati are considered to be the ideal celestial couple, it was deemed perfect for women to pray for their husbands and marital bliss on that day and for unmarried girls to pray for a husband like Shiva. The narrow patriarchal definition of the festival naturally doesn’t appeal to many modern women. We are certainly not defined by marriage or our husbands or the lack of it.
Let’s look a little deeper. Parvati is no ordinary woman. She is the very manifestation of Shakti, the Mother-Goddess, who was invoked upon by Gods to tame Nataraja – Shiva the destroyer. Their union brought harmony to the universe – the communion of Pratriki, nature and Purusha, god that represents life. Prakriti, who is responsible for the creation, is by no means part of Purusha. She is the energy, Shakti that even God’s invoke.
Haryali Teej and Hartalika Teej are two popular variants of Teej that welcome monsoon. Women dress up in Green (colour of monsoon, colour of nature) celebrate the festival with song, dance, katha of Shiv Parvati and other rituals. Like most Indian festivals, food, especially sweets like ghewar, gujiya, are an important part of the celebrations. It’s about dressing up, feeling good, singing, dancing and celebrating being a woman.
There’s again a very interesting story behind Hartalika Teej – a combination of “harit” and “aalika” meaning “abduction” and “female friend” respectively. Goddess Parvati, incarnated as Goddess Shailaputri, was the daughter of mighty Himalaya who promised her hand in marriage to Lord Vishnu, much against her wishes. When Parvati mentioned her predicament to a female friend, she abducted her and took her to a thick forest, so she could marry the man of her own choice. Again, it’s about celebrating choice!
Teej to me is a festival celebrating womanhood – women as Shakti or Prakriti – nature that nurtures life and creation!