Ladies dancing in a temple in Lalitpur on the occasion of Teej.

Nepal, a land of diverse cultures and traditions, boasts a rich tapestry of festivals that hold profound significance in the lives of its people. Among these vibrant celebrations, Hartalika Teej stands out as a women’s festival in Nepal that embodies devotion, tradition, and empowerment. This festival, observed with great enthusiasm and fervor, sheds light on the profound roles that women have played in shaping Nepal’s cultural landscape.

Significance and History of Hartalika Teej

Hartalika Teej, celebrated by married and unmarried women with immense devotion, falls on the third day of the first fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada (August-September). It holds a special place in the hearts of women as it commemorates the union of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. Legend has it that Goddess Parvati, yearning to marry Lord Shiva, sought the help of her friend to escape her father’s plan of marrying her to someone else. This escape took place in a forest, and the festival derives its name from the combination of two words – “Harit” meaning abduction, and “Aalika” meaning female friend.

Women line up to making offerings to Parvati and Shiva at Pashupatinath Temple
Women line up to make offerings to Parvati and Shiva at Pashupatinath Temple

Celebrating Womanhood: The Rich Tapestry of Teej Festival

The Teej festival, a vibrant celebration in Nepal, embodies the essence of empowerment, unity, and the celebration of womanhood. As women dress in resplendent traditional attire, engage in joyful dances and melodic songs, and forge a strong sense of sisterhood, the festival becomes a tribute to their strength, beauty, and valuable contributions to society.

Symbolic Union

At the heart of Teej lies a poignant symbol of unity and resilience. Following a year of separation, Goddess Parvati undertook rigorous penance to capture Lord Shiva’s heart, ultimately succeeding in reuniting with him. This triumphant reunion is commemorated through the festival, standing as a symbol of an ideal marital bond. Consequently, Teej holds immense significance for married women, resonating deeply with the essence of their unions.

Religious Significance

Teej’s roots delve into the depths of Hindu mythology. This period is deemed auspicious for married women to offer prayers, beseeching blessings for marital harmony, their husbands’ well-being, and the enduring strength of their relationships. The festival becomes a conduit for spiritual connection and devotion.

Cultural Identity

Teej resonates as a living testament to Nepal’s cultural heritage. Women elegantly adorn themselves in traditional garments, and intricate henna designs, and participate in dynamic musical and dance performances. Through these expressions, the festival becomes a vivid representation of Nepal’s cultural identity, fostering a connection to the past while celebrating the present.

Ritual Fasting

Central to Teej’s observance is the practice of “Nirjala Vrat,” a rigorous fast wherein women abstain from both food and water for a full day. This act is undertaken as a means to seek blessings from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati for their husbands’ longevity and well-being. This practice intertwines spiritual devotion with personal sacrifices.

Strengthening Family Bonds

Teej goes beyond individual celebration; it’s a celebration of family bonds. The festival encourages the cultivation of familial harmony, nurturing stronger relationships between mothers, sisters, and in-laws. It serves as a reminder of the significance of unity and love within families.

Festive Delights

Amidst the celebrations, delectable feasts add a delightful dimension to Teej. Traditional treats like “Dar” and an array of sweet delicacies are savored, enhancing the festive atmosphere and infusing the occasion with gastronomic joy.

In essence, the Teej festival is a multilayered celebration that encapsulates the essence of womanhood, spirituality, culture, and familial bonds. Through its various facets, Teej perpetuates a harmonious blend of tradition and celebration, forging a unique tapestry that continues to weave the stories of generations past, present, and future.

Rituals and Customs of Hartalika Teej

The observance of Hartalika Teej begins with women waking up before dawn, cleansing themselves, and dressing up in red and green attire – symbolizing love and prosperity. An idol of Goddess Parvati is crafted out of clay or sand and worshipped with vermillion, rice, fruits, and flowers. Women engage in rigorous fasting throughout the day, refraining from even a drop of water.

Traditional Attire and Decorations for Hartalika Teej

Women don traditional red and green sarees or attire adorned with intricate embroidery and jewelry. The colors signify marital bliss and fertility. Homes are adorned with colorful decorations, and swings are set up in gardens or courtyards where women sway, sing, and share folk stories.

Popular Sweets and Dishes Prepared During Hartalika Teej

No festival is complete without indulging in delectable dishes, and Hartalika Teej is no exception. Women prepare a variety of sweets and savories such as rice pudding, malpuas (sweet pancakes), and ghewar (a sweet dish made from flour and sugar syrup) to relish after the day’s fasting.

Hartalika Teej and Its Connection to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati

The legend of Hartalika Teej is intricately connected to the divine love story of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The festival symbolizes their eternal bond and the strength that love and determination hold in overcoming challenges.

Celebrations and Festivities During Hartalika Teej

The air is filled with joyous melodies as women sing traditional folk songs, often centered around the themes of love, marriage, and relationships. The swinging sessions are not only a physical activity but also a way to build bonds between women, fostering a sense of community.

When is Teej celebrated in Nepal?

Teej, a significant festival in Nepal, is traditionally celebrated during the last day of August or the first day of September. This year, the joyful occasion of Teej, marked as Teej 2080, falls on September 18, 2023, according to the lunar calendar. By the solar Gregorian calendar, it corresponds to Ashwin 1, 2080. Despite being a one-day festival, the festivities span three days, allowing for a vibrant and extended celebration of this culturally rich occasion.

Hartalika Teej in Different Regions of India

While Hartalika Teej is prominently celebrated in Nepal, it is also observed in certain states of India, including Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh. The customs may vary, but the essence of celebrating womanhood remains constant.

Hartalika Teej and Its Impact on Women Empowerment

Hartalika Teej transcends beyond its religious roots to become a symbol of women’s empowerment. The festival emphasizes the strength of women’s bonds, their determination, and their significance in shaping the cultural and social fabric of society.

From Feasting to Fasting: The Three-Day Celebration of Hartalika Teej

Day 1: Dar Khane Din (Feasting Day)

The onset of Hartalika Teej brings with it three days of jubilation and spiritual significance. The first day is known as Dar Khane Din, a time of communal joy. Women gather together to partake in dance, song, and the pleasure of delectable food. This day is also celebrated as a feast, and a variety of special sweets and treats are savored. It serves as a precursor to the following days of fasting.

Day 2: Fasting Day

The second day of Hartalika Teej is a day of rigorous fasting. Women observe a strict fast from dawn till dusk, abstaining from both food and water for a span of 24 hours. Rising early, they engage in a purifying bath and don resplendent traditional attire.

Women embark on pilgrimages to temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, often visiting the renowned Pashupatinath temple. Here, they offer prayers, seeking blessings from Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Rituals involve the presentation of flowers, fruits, and sweets, as well as the illumination of lamps.

For married women, prayers are directed towards the well-being of their spouses and marital harmony. Unmarried girls beseech Goddess Parvati for a loving life partner and a blissful married life in the future, engaging in similar rituals as their married counterparts.

Day 3: Rishi Panchami

The culmination of Hartalika Teej is marked by Rishi Panchami, the final day of the celebration. On this day, women who observed the fasting of the previous day engage in a morning prayer to conclude their fasting rites. A gesture of homage is paid to the Sapta Rishis, the Seven Sages, through the offering of flowers and other items, symbolizing the seeking of blessings for prosperity.

Many women choose to perform a purifying ritual bath in a holy river, incorporating special leaves, red mud, and the roots of the sacred Datiwan bush. This act is believed to cleanse accumulated impurities or sins from the past year. Some women opt for a similar purification bath at home using “Datiwan.”

The fasting is broken after the ritual bath with a modest meal. A dish called “Karkalo ko Tarkari,” featuring Taro leaves curry and hygienic food prepared with purified ghee, is consumed, signifying the end of the fasting period.

In this three-day journey from feasting to fasting, Hartalika Teej not only showcases the rich traditions and customs but also underscores the spiritual devotion and unity among women. This festival encapsulates the essence of reverence, fasting, purification, and celebration, making it a deeply meaningful and culturally significant event.

Balancing Tradition and Modernity in Teej Celebrations

The Teej festival has recently undergone a transformation, blending traditional customs with contemporary influences. Modern trends, including Teej parties and social media trends, have gained momentum, often leading to celebrations taking place one to two months prior to the main festival. However, it’s imperative to not lose sight of the festival’s religious and cultural essence and to pay homage to its origins.

Present-day Teej celebrations have embraced modern elements. Hosting gatherings at upscale restaurants and banquet halls has become commonplace. These gatherings have evolved beyond simple feasts to include alcoholic beverages and non-vegetarian dishes.

Yet, a note of caution is warranted against extravagant spending in the name of festivities. Additionally, modern celebrations see women dancing and singing to modern songs or even rap, diverging from the traditional folk tunes.

Amid these changes, striking a balance remains essential to uphold Teej’s religious and cultural heritage. Regardless of modern trends, it’s crucial to retain reverence for the festival’s beginnings and to honor its religious rituals.

Virtual celebrations have surged in popularity as well. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are flooded with live Teej programs, allowing for widespread participation and joyful sharing of the festival’s essence.

Therefore, while modern influences have altered Teej celebrations, it’s crucial to stay anchored in the festival’s religious and cultural roots. By harmoniously integrating traditional and contemporary trends, we can ensure that Teej continues to be celebrated with utmost respect.

Conclusion: The Importance of Preserving and Celebrating Cultural Festivals Like Hartalika Teej

Hartalika Teej serves as a reminder of the enduring power of tradition, the significance of gender equality, and the importance of celebrating the roles women play in our lives. As we embrace the festivity, we also recognize the need to preserve and honor our cultural heritage, ensuring that future generations can continue to cherish and learn from these invaluable traditions. Just as Goddess Parvati’s determination triumphed, let us be determined to keep the spirit of festivals like Hartalika Teej alive, fostering unity, empowerment, and cultural richness.


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