According to Hindu religious texts, Teej reflects the union of lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. According to Hindu mythological stories, Parvati practised a severely strict Vrata (a religious fasting) for 107 years to prove her devotion towards lord Shiva. Also, it is said that Parvati had reincarnated for 108 times to obtain Lord Shiva as her husband. Since, Teej is connected to Hindu religion, there seems a lack of strong base to find out the exact answer to address questions like where, when and how regarding its history. Yet, we can at least say that Teej entered in Nepal with the arrival of Hindus. In India, 3 types of Teej are celebrated in states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab: Hariyali Teej, Kajari Teej and Haritalika Teej. However, in Nepal there seems no existence of Teej other than Haritalika Teej. On the third bright full moon day of Bhadra, women perform their rituals by praying Lord Shiva and Parvati, especially married women for the long life and prosperity of their husband and unmarried women/girls for a husband of a kind they wish. On the day, they do not take foods, not even water to practise their strict Vrata. Other than Vrata, eating ‘Dar’ and dancing/singing are also important aspects of the festival.
How Teej reflects the changing society?
Mainly, a brief attempt to analyze how Nepali society is changing or transforming through the analysis of several elements related to Teej and Teej itself has been made. An analytical description of social changes is attempted on the basis of especially following elements that directly concerns with Teej culture.
Songs and Music
Just like number of songs portraying the picture of contemporary society, we can observe the social condition through the analysis of songs and music related to Teej. Further, social changes can be analysed through the observation of changes in songs and music. Although there is a lack of evidence to point out the origin of songs and music related to Teej, we can at least find the songs and music of earlier times as media of spilling women’s pains and used against the oppressors of those times. With the flow of time and situation, there are changes in the use of words, rhythm and musical instruments. Throughout pain to the reflection of social condition, analysis of changes including socio-political etc. towards today where and when Teej songs are connected with love, modernity, development, rights, equality, freedom etc., all the way, Teej music and songs have come a long way with lots of transformations. In this way, structure of social changes can be understood through the analysis of songs and music related to Teej in Nepal.
Costumes, Jewellery and Make-ups
Just like changes in costumes with the passage of time, we can analyse the changes in social dimensions through the costumes especially related to Teej. We can relate the changes with the type of costumes including dresses, make-up materials, jewellery, etc. within several time intervals concerning Teej. Few decades ago, Teej used to be celebrated with the costumes like Gunyu-Choli, Fariya etc. whereas today through expensive clothing, jewellery, expensive make ups etc. it’s a display of reputation. Such culture is growing in the name of modernization. Teej is going ahead not as a festival of celebration, but it’s developing as a consuming culture, as said by Mark Liechty.
We can analyse social changes also by analysing the changing trends of foods related to Teej. Earlier times, Aalu-Tama etc. were consumed as foods whereas today Momo, Pizza etc. are the foods being consumed. Other than Vrata and singing/dancing, “Dar’ eating is also taken as the main characteristic of Teej. Originally eaten a day before Vrata, now, the culture of ‘Dar’ eating weeks before the Vrata, is being developed. Such ‘Dar’ eating has been more closely converted to Bhoj (a type of feast where huge amount of foods are consumed). More than of religious importance, Teej is slowly being transformed into the festival of ‘Bhoj’.
Ideological values and beliefs
Original beliefs and values are slowly being changed with the passage of time. Breaking the barriers of caste, religion, sex, occupation, geography etc., Teej is going ahead as a form of ‘Everyone’s Festival’, whereas it was only celebrated by Hindu women before. Also, Teej is supposed to be a smooth medium for meetings, gatherings, entertainment etc. nowadays, contrast to the times few years ago, being taken as just a religious festival. Hence, study of social changes can be done through the analysis of changing concepts and beliefs about this festival.
Modern Teej, hence, raises debate regarding its way of practising the festival. There is a question of suitability regarding its new trends in the contemporary society. New way of practising, when analysed, shows us where we are going. It’s not just a festival of recreation. It shapes our national identity. Teej should be practised with harmony avoiding hypocrisy. The rituals practised should be suitable according to the contemporary economic condition. Also, the festival should not be practised in a way that spoils female values.
MA in Sociology 2012-14
Central Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Tribhuvan University