The streets of Kathmandu were filled with ladies dressed in the festive Teej color of red as I made my way to Pashupatinath Temple to cover the Teej festival celebration on 3rd Sept.’08. All decked up like brides, the ladies young and old made a pretty sight in red sarees, green potey (Nepali bead necklace), colorful green and red glass bangles and gold ornaments. The color red is considered auspicious in the Hindu religion as red signifies shakti (power). There was a carnival spirit around the temple as some of the ladies sang songs while waiting for their turn to pay homage to Lord Shiva and pray for their husband’s long life (the unmarried girls pray for a good husband).
A three-day-long festival, Teej is mainly celebrated by Hindu women during August/ September to pray for their husbands’ well being and a happy and fulfilling marital life. According to Hindu mythology the divine couple, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were reunited only after the goddess took one hundred and eight rebirths. She fasted and prayed for her husband before she was finally reunited with him. So on this day, like Goddess Parvati, Hindu wives also observe fasting (some without taking water or swallowing their saliva) to honor Lord Shiva and pray for their husband’s long life.
The first day of the Teej festival is called ‘Dar Khane Din‘. On this day, the married ladies are invited to their parental home to feast and prepare themselves for the next day’s fasting. There is much merry making and singing and dancing. On the second day they observe a fast and worship Lord Shiva. Married women pray for the long and healthy life of their husbands while unmarried girls ask for a good husband. The third day is called ‘Rishi Panchami‘. On this day, the saptarishis (seven sages of the Hindu pantheon) are worshiped by the ladies that they be cleansed of all sins.
When I reached the Pashupati area, there was long line of devotees stretching from the main road to the temple precincts. They were waiting for their turn to worship at the temple’s shrine. Some of the ladies said that they had been standing in the queue for more then 5 hours. But this is not unusual, because women from far off places come to Pashupatinath Temple(regarded as one of the holiest shrine of Lord Shiva) to offer their prayers on this day. Female devotees line up from as early as 4a.m. to offer their prayers. The temple lies on the bank of the holy Bagmati river and as I walked by the riverside, there were ladies putting down their offerings (flowers, incense sticks and coins) on a small stone shivalinga (sacred symbol of Lord Shiva) by the river.
[ Offerings for the “Shivalinga” ]
The ladies who had already offered their prayers could be seen making a beeline for the mehandi appliers to apply mehandi (henna) on their hands. The festival of Teej is also regarded as a time when women especially take time out from their daily routine for shringaar (to beautify and adorn themselves). So this unique festival can also be taken as a kind of celebration of womanhood.
[ Women decorating their hands with mehandi (henna). It is believed that the darker the mehandi shade on the hands, the deeper will be the love between couples. ]
[ Colours of Teej ]
[ A lady finds time to do some quick household shopping ]