Women in Nepal celebrate the Hartalika Teej festival with great pomp and fervor. Hartalika Teej is dedicated to Maa Hartalika, a form of Goddess Parvati and commemorates the day when Lord Shiva accepted her to be his wife. The name Teej is derived from a small red insect of the same name and hence the color red assumes significance during the Teej celebrations.
As per the lunar calendar, the festival falls on the third day of the bright fortnight (Shukla Paksha) in the month of Bhadrapad. Teej coincides with the monsoon season and heralds the arrival of rains. During the Teej festival, married women pray for the longevity, prosperity and happiness of their husbands, while girls who are yet to tie the knot pray for attaining a happy married life. The Teej celebrations last for three days with each day having its own importance.
The first day of the festival is known as “Dar Khane Din” and is a time for merrymaking. Women dressed up at their best in red or bridal clothes gather at a common place to celebrate with traditional dancing and singing. They partake in a grand feast called “Dar” with a variety of foods that include rice porridge, yogurt, sel, puri, fruits and desserts. The celebrations continue until midnight after which the 24-hour period of fasting begins.
On day two, women and girls observe a strict fast without consuming even a drop of water. They visit the nearby Shiva temples and make offerings of flowers and fruits to the deities. The Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu is thronged by a large number of devotees. Lighting of the oil lamp is considered an important part of the puja and the lamp is kept lit throughout the night to avoid any bad omen.
Rishi Panchami is the third day of the festival when women take a holy bath with the red mud from the roots of the Datiwan bush, which is believed to purify them from all sins. The seven rishis of the Hindu pantheon are then worshipped. Karkalo vegetable with rice and ghee is consumed as the major food on this day.
This year Hartalika Teej falls on Thursday 24th August. A large number of tourists from abroad have been visiting Nepal in recent years during the Teej period to experience the grand celebrations which include Teej fairs, folk songs and colorful dances. Teej in Nepal is a period of great rejoicing and also the time for strengthening the relationships between women, couples and their families.