In Nepal, after the farm work is over and all the paddy fields are weeded, Hindu women celebrate Teej. Teej is a three day festival for the health and well-being of their parter and children, marital bliss and the purification of body and soul.
On the first day of Teej, women gather together to sing, dance and feast. The joyful celebration lasts until midnight, which marks the beginning of a twenty-four hour fast. On their day of fasting, women wear their finest red clothes and dance in the street on their way to temple. At temple, women make an offering and pray for their husbands, the strength of their marriage and their family. On the third day, the women pray more and bathe in red mud. The bathing is a purification ritual, absolving the women of their sins. Teej is the most famous celebration for Nepali Hindu women. In addition to marital and familial happiness, it also celebrates the beginning of monsoon season that breaks the heat of summer.
My good friend was visiting Nepal in September when Teej happened. She said the streets of Kathmandu were filled with women in red, singing and dancing. It was quite a spectacle. My first reaction to hearing about this ceremony was, “So the women take three days to pray for their husbands. What are the men doing for the women?” Then, I thought of a co-worker of mine who was struggling in her marriage until she realized she was keeping score. She thought she was working harder than her spouse at their marriage and wanted him to do more. But it wasn’t working. She let go of keeping score and lived a new mantra: If you want a better spouse, be a better spouse.” She found her generosity and change of mindset became contagious in her marriage. I imagine that these Nepali women are not keeping score. Their partners, however, see them fasting and praying, dancing and sacrificing for them. This has to inspire the rest of the family to invest as well.
I’m always curious about how other religions and cultures celebrate and mourn. I am fascinated by ritual, and Teej is especially intriguing to me. To be honest, I am a little jealous. Feasting and fasting, dancing and praying, dressing up and bathing in mud– you have to admit it sounds pretty fun, especially to be able to do all of it with the important women in my life. Then I picture myself dressed in red, dancing with my girlfriends, mom and sisters down a busy street on the way to church and I laugh. We would get some pretty strange looks. I’ve been to Nepal and I can picture Teej because it’s a country that builds faith into every moment of the day. It’s practiced publicly and communally all the time. There are small shrines on the sidewalk, places to light a candle or spin a prayer ring on your walk to work. There are numerous temples scattered through the neighborhoods, open to the public. Hindus and Buddhist support each other in daily devotion. In the United States our faith has become more private and individual. It can get quarantined to Sunday morning. It can be fairly disembodied and disconnected from the earth and culture. So I’m interested in studying more about Teej. I’m thinking about the importance of fasting and feasting, dancing and praying, dressing up and bathing in the mud. And I’d like to figure out how to celebrate and pray with the women in my life for my own health and the health of my marriage within my own faith and culture.