Redefining Teej: A cherished festival for women

Oh what a lovely day it is! Women celebrating this day with smiles, dance and music. Women cherishing this day, like every other year with so much enthusiasm and happiness. I too love the spirit with which women celebrate this day, but it piques me when the value with which it is celebrated is uncovered. When actually the value with which it could be celebrated is much more empowering for women.

With a layman perspective, I propose four values that Teej should be celebrated with, which could be as follows:

  1. Lord Shiva, the crux of this celebration was indeed the one who in real sense reflected gender equality taking a form of ardhanarishvara. Ardhanarishvara represents the synthesis of masculine and feminine energies of the universe (Purusha and Prakriti) and illustrates how Shakti, the female principle of God, is inseparable from (or the same as, according to some interpretations) Shiva, the male principle of God.  Isn’t it a lovely value to rejoice, a women’s equal status and power in society.
  2. According to myths, Parvati carried out a rigorous fast for 108 years to prove her love and devotion for Shiva, before he accepted her as his wife. Although, I dislike the fact that Parvati had to so painfully prove her love. What we should celebrate is the strength and endurance of a woman. How she had the strength (again to take a Kedara Vratam) and the intellect to convince a man of a woman’s strength and be an inseparable part of him.
  3. Teej fasting for a happy and long conjugal, peaceful, prosperity, healthy and wealthy life. Definitely, skipping meals once in a while could be actually good for health and who would not want a happy life. Also the value here that should be observed is to aware women that it is important to have a conjugal relation which is peaceful devoid of violence and one of equality.
  4. Teej should celebrate womanhood: the power of love and procreation. One should try to redefine the value attached to menstruation, as one of pride than of shame.

Similarly, I observe certain values that Teej should not be celebrated with, which are:

  1. An act of purification: Rishi Panchami, the third day, the seven sages of the Hindu pantheon are worshiped by women in a belief that it will cleanse all sins of the previous year. Womenfolk take a holy bath with red mud and after three hours of rigorous cleansing, they are believed to become purified and absolved from Rajaswala dosha. Rajaswala dosha which is caused by avoiding guidelines of not entering the kitchen for cooking, not participating in any religious activities and touching any family members during menstrual cycle. Although these rituals might have made sense centuries ago when there was no sanitary amenities, it is definitely void in current sense and so is the value void as well.
  2. Merely for the good health and longevity of husband. Although it is a good motive, the value given to it could be more meaningful, if the fast would be taken with little strictness and for the well being of a couple as a whole. I believe it adds dignified essence to the act of fasting and depicts a women’s self respect and love is subtle way.
  3. Only a woman’s festival: Teej should be observed as a festival where both men and women cherish the value of conjugal peace and prosperity. It must not be just limited to women fasting for husbands. Rather, women must celebrate with men, their womanhood, their growth and their bond together.

Unfortunately, in actuality Teej is celebrated with values that are more likely limiting women to subjugation. The power that women bear is belittled to one aspect of marriage and the bond with husband. I do respect their love for their husband, it is indeed the most important relation in a women’s life but is it merely all that is worth celebrating? I am worried about the value that has been mostly laden to this festival and how it is being passed on to the new generation of women, only giving importance to aspects of marriage.

I feel the need that we Nepali women should Redefine TEEJ as a grand celebration of a ‘DIGNIFIED’ Womanhood as a whole and not just of a pompous singlehood or marriedhood. I really wish this realization comes to all of us soon and we be able to celebrate TEEJ with the same vigor but with higher respect and honour for ourselves. Happy TEEJ!

Photo credits: Nikki Shrestha (https://www.facebook.com/nikkishresha/photos/pb.573987275975929.-2207520000.1442390150./972732052768114/?type=3&theater)

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