Why celebrate Teej?

By Smita Mishra | Last Updated: Aug 11, 2010, 22:22 PM IST

Teej occurs amorphously in my memory as a festival observed by my mom during my early childhood, which she gave up eventually as she thought it was taking a toll on her health. <br/><br/>My mom though an extremely religious person, had her own ideas about fasts and rituals. She never saw them sans logic and was more into prayer than penance. <br/><br/>So Teej gradually went into the shadows of my memory, with vague remembrances of delightful goodies cooked for the occasion, long evening prayers and loads of prasad sent by friends and relatives the next morning- till I myself had to perform it one day.<br/><br/>Fasting for the whole day without water has never seemed a very healthy proposition to me. I find unpalatable the idea of getting decked up for an occasion with heavy pricking jewellery and uncomfortable dresses, without a single morsel of food in your stomach! <br/><br/>But then in our country most of us have a huge army of relatives, ready to make you feel like a culprit for nurturing such ‘unholy’ feelings for something as sacred as Teej. <br/><br/>Surprisingly, while researching for the festival I found some interesting facts and a lot of reason and validity to the rituals that seem so arduous and onerous to agonists like me. <br/><br/>So what is Teej? It is actually a small red insect that comes out of the soil during rains! <br/><br/>We may call it the traditional women’s day which is celebrated in July-Aug (month of Savan as per Hindu calendar) and is dedicated to Lord Siva and Parvati. <br/><br/>Celebrated mostly in North India, Teej has three types. <br/><br/><b>Hariyali Teej</b>, mainly observed in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra is mainly related with greenery and welcomes the onset of monsoons. Women wear green coloured dresses and bangles and enjoy themselves by swinging in rains. Specially decorated swings are tied from trees for this occasion. It is a kind of thanksgiving festival where women offer fresh fruits and sweets to Goddess Parvati. <br/><br/><b>Kajari Teej</b> is celebrated with fervour and gaiety in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It has a slightly different tradition where women gather to sing songs in the honour of Lord Krishna and worship the Neem tree. Dance, swings and new clothes are part of Kajari Teej too and it is a great occasion of festivity for the womenfolk. No wonder, they do not mind keeping fast for all the fun that they have! The name Kajari refers to the black clouds that bring the bounteous rains during the monsoons. <br/><br/><b>Hartalika Teej</b> that my mother performed is actually the biggest and the most difficult of all three. Mainly celebrated in parts of Rajasthan, UP and Bihar, it falls in the month of 'Bhadra'. It is a three-day festival in which 24 hour fast is kept for a happy and long conjugal life. Not even a drop of water is taken during the fast.<br/><br/>Hartalika Teej commemorates the reunion of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. On this day, idol of Parvati Mata clad in bright, colorful clothes is taken out in a palanquin in a procession. Women also distribute beautifully painted coconuts to their female relatives and friends. Fresh fruits, sweets and green vegetables are offered to Goddess Parvati as thanksgiving. <br/><br/><b>Legend:</b><br/><br/>As per mythology Teej is celebrated to mark the reunion of Goddess Parvati with Lord Shiva. She is said to have gone through severe penance and took 107 births on the earth to finally unite with Siva. Waterless fast and sleepless nights spent by womenfolk are symbolic of Parvati’s penance.<br/><br/><b>Significance:</b><br/><br/>In our fast paced, busy lives Teej may not hold much significance, but when looked at from the perspective of women living in villages and those in ancient times who had no means of recreation, no respite from mundane household chores, Teej indeed came as a whiff of fresh breeze. Who would mind getting gifts of clothes and jewellery, opportunity of visiting friends and family and observing a fast that brought them closer to their spouse? After all they performed such a severe penance for the long lives of their husbands!<br/><br/>In our times women visit beauty clinics and rejuvenating spas whenever they wish to, but in those days getting decked up for no reason raised the eyebrows of the entire household. Teej gave them an opportunity to don their best attires and feel good about themselves.<br/><br/>We live in an age where we have right to choose our life partners, enter into relationships and walk out of them. We have education to guide our beliefs and mitigate our fears, we can fight against injustice, refuse to do what we dislike. But many women in our own age and almost all in the ages preceding ours did not have any of these rights and freedoms. For them such festivals came as saviours, as special fun packages.<br/><br/>Though I blearily remember the Teej performed by my mother, but it remains etched in my memory as a happy occasion when we woke up at dawn with her to dig into the sumptuous feast before the fast began, I remember my doting father who hated waking up early, to be always present in this early morning affair, lending his quiet support and my grandmother and aunts taking utmost care that my mother ate well so that she could endure the long fast. <br/><br/>So many years have elapsed but this memory of family affection and celebration refuses to fade away. No wonder I would like to relive it again and again and would not care if a fast or penance is the price that I have to pay.<br/><br/>