Dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, commemorating her union with Lord Shiva, the Teej festival is celebrated for well-being of spouse and children and purification of ones body and soul. The Teej festival is a three-day-long celebration that combines sumptuous feasts as well as rigid fasting. Teej is celebrated by women, for the long life of her husband and long and firm relationship between them in this life and all the lives to come.
The folk music and dances add more flavor to traditional values of Teej. Women in red dance and sing in the street, going to temple in holy and fasting mood. Teej is also called Haritalika Teej. This festival is celebrated by Nepali Hindu women all across the world.
The first day of Teej is called Dar Khane Din. On this day the women assemble at one place in their finest attire and start dancing and singing devotional songs. Amidst all this, the grand feast takes place. What is unusual about this day is that the feast is hosted by men. Women, who work hard throughout the year, do not have to do anything that day. That is the day for them to embellish themselves in sorha singaar — dressing up and using make up to the full extent, indulge in good food, and dance. Oftentimes, because women are invited by multiple brothers for the feast, they try to dance off some food before they are ready to eat more. The food served is supposed to be rich and abundant.
This is probably the only day in a year that allows women full freedom of expression. Consequently, women have traditionally used this occasion to express their pains and pang in the songs they sing while dancing. With the advancement of communication and awareness, women these days use this occasion to voice their concerns about social issues and discrimination against women. The jollity often goes on till midnight, after which the 24-hour fast starts.
The second day is the fasting day. Some women live without food and drops of water while others take liquid and fruit. The fasting is observed by married and unmarried women. Married women abstain strictly from food and drinks with a believe that their devotion to the god will be blessed with longevity, peace and prosperity of their husband and family. Unmarried women observe the fast with a hope of being blessed with a good husband.
They dress gaily and visit a nearby Shiva temple singing and dancing on the way. The Pashupatinath Temple gets the highest number of devotees. At the temple, women circumambulate the Shiva Lingam, which symbolizes Lord Shiva, offers the praying with flowers, sweets and coins. The main puja (religious ceremony) takes place with offerings of flowers, fruits, etc., made to Shiva and his wife goddess Parvati, beseeching them to grant their blessing upon the husband and family. The important part of the puja is the oil lamp which should be alight throughout the night. It is believed that by the light of an oil lamp all night will bring peace and prosperity to the husband and family.
The third day of the festival is Rishi Panchami. After the completion of the previous days puja, women pay homage to seven saints or sages, offer prayers to deities, and bathe with red mud found on the roots of the sacred datiwan bush, along with its leaves. This act of purification is the final ritual of Teej, after which women are considered absolved from all their sins. Recent years have witnessed an alteration in the rituals, especially concerning the severity, but its essence remains the same.