Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Festival of Teej

Last week was the Hindu festival Teej, which commemorates the goddess Parvati and her marriage to Lord Shiva. During the three-day festival, women pray for marital bliss and for the blessings of their husbands and families.

On the first day of Teej, women gather together to enjoy a rich feast, singing, and dancing. This celebration is followed by a 24-hour fast. During the fast, the second day of Teej, women typically go to a Hindu temple to worship and give offerings to Parvati and Shiva. On the third day of Teej, women traditionally bathe with red mud extracted from a sacred plant. This act of purification absolves them of their sins.

From what I have read, the Teej traditions have shifted over time, and women may not so strictly follow all rituals over the course of the three-day festival. But the second day, which women devote to fasting and worshipping, remains an important holiday in Nepal.

How did I celebrate? Well, not by fasting (sorry, Brian. I love you, but let's be real). Instead, I joined a friend to go to Pashupatinath, one of the world's most significant temples of Shiva, to observe the celebrations taking place there.

We walked most of the way to Pashupatinath because the streets surrounding the temple were closed for the festivities. Along the way we saw a steady stream of women in red saris, richly adorned with beading and embroidery.

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We also saw groups of women and girls dancing.

Entrepreneurs sold strands of brightly colored threads -- I think for both decoration and offerings?

After winding our way through crowded streets, we finally made it to Pashupatinath, a large temple complex that spans the Bagmati River.

Even at 5:30pm, at the end of the day, women were still lined up and waiting to snake their way to the main temple.

Others stood on the ghats, or steps, leading down to the river and made offerings.

Meanwhile, she quietly watched the scene below.

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