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Hisila Yami

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Teez the exclusive women’s festival is a three days festival. It is celebrated in Nepal and in some states in India. The first day is known as “dar khane din” that is eating sumptuous feast accompanied with dancing. Since the next day is fasting and praying day the night before women are given special delicious food. The third day is called Rishi Panchami day when women involve themselves with intimate cleaning of their body followed by elaborate worship of Shiva along with Rishis. It is important to know that Teez was started as pious celeberation to celeberate the union of marriage between Shiva the fiery and Parvati the beauty of Himalaya. It is believed in mythology that Parvati was to be wedded to Bishnu, the god of wealth, but Parvati took to liking ascetic, propertyless the god of Himalaya. She was helped by her friends to go in hiding in jungle where she prayed for lord Shiva. Impressed by her determination and devotion Shiva descended to marry her. But as time passed this celeberation took the form of sacrifice by wives by taking fast to prolong life of their spouses and to pray for good match for unmarried women. 

Most festivals are born out of necessity created by the society. One can understand the dire necessity of this festival if one understands the stringent Hindu religion.  The Hindu law made by Manu saw to it that women are never left free. This is manifested in keeping woman under the custody of father when she is child, and under husband when married and under son when she becomes grandmother. No wonder then Teez is celebrated by all age group to mark the freedom from patrierchal grip. And there is always an element of festivity, because women are so involved in day to day drudgery life that those three days in the whole year is a great break for them to be amongst themselves free from house work, farm work, productive and reproductive work. Free to express themselves verbally, literally, physically, culturally and recently economically and above all free from domestic voilence at least for three days!. 

Teez has special meaning for married women, as marriage relegates women to four walls within her house. In older days the feudal hold on married women was so intense that coming home in Teez was like unleashing the chained dog that would wildly go around barking and sniffing free space. This is an occasion for her to wear good clothes, jewelaries, eat delicious food in the name of “Dar”, something which is seldomly made available for her in her husband’s house. It is important to note that she is the last one to eat. And religiously she is supposed to eat left-over of her husband’s food in the same plate. As if that is not enough she is expected to drink filthy water used after washing her husband’s feet. This is an occasion when all married women meet at their natal home to meet to share their marital bliss or woes. For unmarried women Teez is an occasion to meet their married sisters, aunties, friends to get the glimpse of marrige relations and contradictions. As time passed this festival became a ventilating means to pour out atrocity women faced under feudal patrierchal society. The contradiction between being man and woman, son and daughter, brother and sister, husband and wife, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, is skillfully and poetically, articulated in writing Teez songs accompanied with group dance. In modern context the contradiction has taken different form that is being productive (for men) and doubly productive and reproductive (for women), being paid and underpaid, being hired and fired, being pro-active and reactive, being exploiter and exploited, being competitive and steriotyped, being direct and indirect, being represented and  under-represented, being objective and subjective, being expert and general. Women being more vocal, educated, mobile are making use of Teez as a vehicle for change.

The most potent aspect of Teez is the power of solidarity women show to each other be it in the name of celebrating it  religiously, or rebelliously (against status quo), or with consumerism (dining and wining in hotels, vulgar display of jewelary), or with distortions (using all sorts of drug, indulging in remix vulgar culture), or raising developmental issues (using women as agents of  change) or as a form of protest (as recently shown in Kavre where women dressed for Teez demonstrated against price rise ) or as a form of felicitating women for their entrepreneurship. With growing number of single women headed housel-holds, both de-jure and de-facto, Teez is increasingly becoming popular expression of women. And with proliferation of media, particularly FM, television, there is greater incentive to showcase the event. Women are encouraged to give interviews, show their talents for writing Teez songs, singing and dancing. Negatively it has attracted scrupulous men who are seen to control Teez event to make it more vulgar and consumer oriented.

Teez has also bred jealousy, unhealthy competition on unproductive spending amongst women.  It is also bringing wider gap between haves and have-nots. It is making poor feel inferior. It is also encouraging lower middle class to ape higher middle class, higher middle class to ape elite class and elite class aping to bring expansionist and imperialist culture. As if to counteract these, feudalist elements are trying to make it as much conservative as possible in the name of religion.

The mass appeal og Teez has attracted women fronts of different political parties to use this occasion to mobilize and influence the masses. The rightist forces use it as a means to preserve feudal relations, to advance Hindu religion, the radical left forces use this occasion to expose feudal values and to prepare base for socialism and centrist forces use this forum to reform status quo and Hindu religion. There are independent radical feminists working in ngo/ingo who either boycott this festival completely or expose its outright patriarchal biasness. 

With the country being declared federal democratic republic, Teez has become a symbol of identity for Hindus, Aryans, particularly the Brahmans-Chhetris who have now lost the shine and power to many extent. This is because the country has been declared secular and federal on the basis of ethnicity, region and language. Non-Aryans who are now asserting their own culture are not celebrating Teez with much enthusiasm as they used to during monarchy period. This has however not prevented them to become onlookers or even participate in Teez. On the other hand this festival is attracting foreigners, particularly women as it is so uniquely women specific festival. Not only the food consumed during this festival is specific but also the culture displayed. In fact gender discrimination being world-wide phenomena, Teez is already attracting anthropologists specializing in gender relation. From all points of view Teez is here to stay whether one likes it or not. It will be celebrated or distorted as long as women are not empowered politically, economically and socially. —————————————20th August 2009

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