Teej

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Teej (Tij, Green Teej)

Type of Holiday: Religious (Hindu)
Date of Observation: July-August; third day of the waxing half of the Hindu month of Sravana
Where Celebrated: India, Nepal
Symbols and Customs: Henna, Parvati, Swing
Related Holidays: Gauri Festival

ORIGINS

Teej is a festival in the religious tradition of Hinduism, which many scholars regard as the oldest living religion. The word Hindu is derived from the Sanskrit term Sindhu (or Indus), which meant river. It referred to people living in the Indus valley in the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism has no founder, one universal reality (or god) known as Brahman, many gods and goddesses (sometimes referred to as devtas), and several scriptures. Hinduism also has no priesthood or hierarchical structure similar to that seen in some other religions, such as Christianity. Hindus acknowledge the authority of a wide variety of writings, but there is no single, uniform canon. The oldest of the Hindu writings are the Vedas. The word "veda" comes from the Sanskrit word for knowledge. The Vedas, which were compiled from ancient oral traditions, contain hymns, instructions, explanations, chants for sacrifices, magical formulas, and philosophy. Another set of sacred books includes the Great Epics, which illustrate Hindu faith in practice. The Epics include the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita.

The Hindu pantheon includes approximately thirty-three million gods. Some of these are held in higher esteem than others. Over all the gods, Hindus believe in one absolute high god or universal concept. This is Brahman. Although he is above all the gods, he is not worshipped in popular ceremonies because he is detached from the day-to-day affairs of the people. Brahman is impersonal. Lesser gods and goddesses (devtas) serve him. Because these are more intimately involved in the affairs of people, they are venerated as gods. The most honored god in Hinduism varies among the different Hindu sects. Although Hindu adherents practice their faith differently and venerate different deities, they share a similar view of reality and look back on a common history.

The Hindu festival of Teej is celebrated throughout India, but particularly in the dry, desert-like state of Rajasthan in the northwestern part of the country. It welTeej

comes the monsoon season, when the wind off the Indian Ocean brings the heavy rains that provide a respite from the hot summer weather and that are so necessary for a good harvest. Because the monsoon is associated with crops and fertility, Teej is also a celebration for women and is dedicated to the Hindu goddess PARVATI , consort of Lord Shiva and the patron goddess of women.

In preparation for the festivities, Hindu women traditionally paint delicate designs on their hands and feet with HENNA . They wear green, red, or yellow dresses and new glass or lacquer bangles on their arms. Married women go to their parents' homes to receive gifts of clothing and jewelry, while unmarried girls are given sweets, jewelry, and clothing by their mothers. Decorated SWINGS are hung from trees, in houses, and in gardens, and women and young girls spend the day swinging on them and singing songs that honor Parvati. In households where there are boys, it is customary for brothers to put up swings for their sisters. There are also fairs and processions that involve carrying images of Parvati through the streets.

It is not difficult to see the connection between the arrival of the monsoon and the fertility that is associated with marriage. Married Hindu women worship Parvati on this day in the hope that they will have long, happy married lives and that their children will find peace and prosperity. The new clothes and jewelry they put on are symbols of such a life, and Teej is said to be a particularly important day for newly married women.

In Katmandu, Nepal, Hindu women visit Pashupatinath Temple on this day to worship Shiva and Parvati. Ritual bathing in the sacred Bagmati River is believed to wash away the sins of the preceding year.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Henna

Decorating her hands and feet with henna expresses a Hindu woman's optimism about the future, since henna itself symbolizes happiness and is believed to bring good luck. The most popular designs include flowers and leaves, vertical lines on the palms (symbolic of the monsoon rains), and ghevar, which is the form of a round, sweet dish made especially for the festival. In addition to its symbolic meaning, henna also serves the purpose of cooling the skin in the hot summer weather.

Parvati

The Hindu goddess Parvati is a symbol for complete womanhood. Although she has many different names and manifestations, representing every imaginable aspect of Mother Nature, she is best known as Gauri, the goddess of abundance (see GAURI FESTIVAL), Uma, the ascetic, and Parvati, the devoted housewife.

Teej celebrates the day on which Parvati left her father's home to go to that of her new husband, Lord Shiva. For this reason, a bridal car or carriage is often taken out in a procession of decorated elephants, camels, horses, dancers, and musicians, with an image of the goddess carried in a palanquin.

Swing

In folklore and mythology, swinging is an activity that is usually indulged in by gods and goddesses when they want to have fun. The swinging that Hindu women do on this day is basically a form of play and an opportunity for them to relax and enjoy themselves. Because the act of swinging creates wind, it is also possible that the swing is a symbol for the wind off the ocean that brings the monsoon.

The swings that are used on Teej are supposed to be hung from mango trees, since the mango is a symbol of fertility.

FURTHER READING

Bellenir, Karen. Religious Holidays and Calendars. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2004. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Sanon, Arun. Festive India. New Delhi: Frank Bros., 1986. Sharma, Brijendra Nath. Festivals of India. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1978. Trawicky, Bernard, and Ruth W. Gregory. Anniversaries and Holidays. 5th ed. Chicago: American Library Assocation, 2000. Van Straalen, Alice. The Book of Holidays Around the World. New York: Dutton, 1986. Teej

Teej (Tij; Green Teej)

July-August; third day of waxing half of Hindu month of Sravana
Teej is a way to welcome the monsoon, the season when the wind from the Indian Ocean brings heavy rainfall. The festival is celebrated especially in the dry, desert-like state of Rajasthan in northwestern India. Because the monsoon augurs good crops and fertility, this is also a celebration for women and is dedicated to the Hindu goddess, Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva and patron goddess of women. On this day, she is supposed to have been reunited with Shiva.
On Teej women traditionally paint delicate designs on their hands and feet with henna. Specially decorated swings are hung from trees in every village, and women swing on them and sing songs in praise of Parvati. Married women go to their parents' home and receive gifts of clothes and jewelry. There are also local fairs and processions carrying the image of the goddess.
In Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, women dressed in their finest go out to the main temple with flowers and brass vessels filled with water to worship the goddess and sing her praise. A palanquin carrying an image of Parvati is carried through the streets in a procession of decorated elephants, camels, horses, chariots, dancers, and musicians.
On this day in Kathmandu, Nepal, Hindu women visit Pashupatinath Temple to worship Shiva and Parvati. Ritual bathing in the sacred Bagmati River is supposed to wash away the sins of the past year.
CONTACTS:
Department of Tourism, Art & Culture, Government of Rajasthan
Govt. Hostel Campus, Paryatan Bhawan, M.I. Rd.
Jaipur, Rajasthan 302 001 India
91-141-25110595; fax: 91-141-25110591
www.rajasthan.gov.in
Nepal Embassy
2131 Leroy Pl. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
202-667-4550; fax: 202-667-5534
www.nepalembassyusa.org
SOURCES:
BkHolWrld-1986, Aug 6
FestIndia-1987, p. 38
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 473
HolSymbols-2009, p. 937
RelHolCal-2004, p. 171
(c)
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