Teej: festival for women in Nepal

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ September 12th, 2018. Published in: Travel blog » Nepal.
Women dressed in red saris during Teej in Kathmandu

Women dressed in red saris during Teej in Kathmandu

Celebrating Teej in Kathmandu

Teej or the festival for women was celebrated today in Nepal. I went along to the celebrations in Kathmandu to give you an idea of what it’s like.

Teej or Hartalika Teej is celebrated in August/September throughout Nepal by women. It is a Hindu festival that is also celebrated in North and West India. In Nepal the Teej is celebrated over three days. It is known locally as the “women’s festival”.

Although celebrated by women it’s not a specifically a celebration of women in the western sense. It’s roots go back to Shiva’s wife Parvati and the celebration of her marriage which we’ll look at shortly. Thus Teej is especially important for married women.

Red saris, bangles, bracelets and adornments are worn for feasts, fasting, dancing, laughing and blessings.

Women queuing during Teej

Women will queue for miles for a blessing during Teej

Where is the best place to see Teej in Nepal?

Pasupatinath temple in Kathmandu is the most revered and popular place for women to go for blessing during Teej in Nepal. However every village and town with a Hindu population will have a celebration. Women will go for blessings at the nearest important Shiva or Shiva and Parvati temple.

Women surrounding a Shiva Temple in Kathmandu during Teej

Shiva temples are where women go during Teej in Nepal

As Teej is celebrated over three days the best place to see it is on the second day when women go out for blessings. If you are staying in local guest house you may also be invited to the first day of Teej which is a feast.

Although Pasupatinath is the main area where women gather in Kathmandu, I find the crowds and lack of transport to be overwhelming. A better option is to visit Kathmandu Durbar Square on the second day of Teej. Women come for blessings at the Mahendreshwar Temple just outside the northern section of the square. You can find this easily in my guidebook to Nepal.

Women having blessings at a temple in Kathmandu for Teej

Women having blessing at the Mahendreshwar Temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square

Due to the excessive crowds at Kathmandu Durbar square the ticket office is usually not open if you enter through the Indra Chowk side by mid afternoon!

History of Teej in Nepal

Hartalika Teej in Nepal is the celebration of the goddess Paravti’s marriage to Shiva. The festival celebrates the well-being of a spouse, the children along with the purification of the body and soul. It also celebrates the union of the marriage for this life and many more to come.

Girls dressed in green saris during Teej

Not all girls dress in red saris during Teej, some likes these girls will wear green or blue saris

Teej is celebrated over three days:

  • Day 1 is a feast hosted by men to celebrated women. On this day women have a day of rest and do not participate in any household chores. They eat daro khana or heavy food to sustain them through the next day.
  • Day 2 is the fasting and blessing day whereby many women will not eat or drink for the day. This is also when they go to a Shiva temple for a blessing.
  • Day 3 is the purification day when women have more blessings and often bathe in red mud.

The celebration remembers Shiva choosing Parvati as his wife. The goddess Parvati had fasted and remained strict in her devotion for many years.

Modern day Teej in Nepal

In very recent years Teej was celebrated as it was for hundreds of years. Fasting today is not always adhered too, especially when it comes to not drinking water. However there are some devotees who will go all day without any food or water.

Crowds and loudspeakers during the Teej festival

Modern day Teej in Nepal means large crowds and loud music in some places

On the second day of Teej the dancing is slowly moving into modern music in Kathmandu. Traditional dancing is still widely practiced. However large commercial promoters are starting to set up stages and loudspeakers often blasts out music rather than traditional instruments being played.

The second day is also when many women are granted a day off work. However, in corporations and shopping centers this is becoming rare. On the first day of Teej most families will prepare a feast that night rather than during the day due to work commitments.

Women dancing during Teej

Traditional dancing is still modern in Nepal and women will dance, sing, joke and tell stories throughout the second day of Teej

Colorful saris remain en-vogue. Red is the traditional color though many ladies will also wear blue, green or yellow.

Where did the Teej festival get its name from?

Teej is the name of a red beetle that comes out of the soil during the monsoon season. It is also said that this is why Teej is celebrated with red colors.

Ladies buying red tikka during the Teej festival

Ladies buying red tikka during the Teej festival

When is Teej Celebrated?

It’s a lunar celebration so there is not exact fixed day every year. Usually it takes place in late August to mid September. It’s traditionally linked to the monsoon season in India though in Nepal it occurs at the end of the monsoon season.

Woman in a blue sari turns her head in queue with women in red saris

Not everyone wears red during Teej … and that’s just fine!

For a list of dates do see my list of Festivals in Nepal.

Can men join in during Teej?

On the first day of Teej Nepali men are meant to do the housework and any other duties the woman normally carries out at home. They are also tasked with preparing a feast that day and night.

As a male or female tourist you could be invited to this feast if you know a local family.

A man gives blessings during the Teej festival

Teej is celebrated by women however it’s men on the first day who do all the work for them and will also perform blessings

On the second day of Teej which men can visit any public gathering where women are dancing, singing and telling stories. However they do not join in any of the activities. Usually they will escort a lady to the temple but will not be permitted to enter with her for the blessing.

Can women tourists join in? Yes, women tourists can join in the dancing and singing. However the blessings are only for Hindus.

On the third day of Teej, the purification ceremonies are strictly only for Hindu women.

How much fun is Teej?

Teej is a very relaxed festival in Nepal. Women are fully allowed to do what they want in terms of expressing themselves, speaking out about what they want and indeed what annoys them without any repercussion.

As a tourist you may find the abundance of food on the first day of Teej if you are invited to a home to be overwhelming. It’s best to eat at least a token offering. And to bring some nice food or treats with you.

Women during Teej celebrations in Nepal

The Teej festival in Nepal along with its celebrations are well worth a few hours to experience!

On the second day of Teej it’s very nice to see so many women in Nepal out and about in wonderful saris. There’s a great air of confidence surrounding women on this day. Taking photographs is generally no problem but asking beforehand is still important.

The only downside to Teej are the crowds along narrow streets. It can be overwhelming. However unlike other festivals in Nepal Teej is slightly less crowded and you can easily make your way around the crowded areas.

If you are in Nepal during Teej it’s certainly worthwhile to go out and admire the celebrations!


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8 Great responses to Teej: festival for women in Nepal

  1. Karla says:

    Wow, never heard of this! They look great, sounds like a good start to the season!

  2. Ethan says:

    This is a fascinating post. My wife would enjoy this!

  3. Sofia Bernard says:

    Nice photographs of Teej. It’s great to see Nepali women have their own day like this.

  4. Mark says:

    I never knew about the red Teej beetle. Learn something knew everyday. Thanks.

  5. Allan Hart says:

    Are all the festivals together in Nepal or are they spread out across the year?

  6. Blerim Norja says:

    That sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Rebecca Kennedy says:

    I’m thrilled to read about this. It’s like everyone is having a good time during this festival.

  8. Love these shots. I can imagine how crowded Kathmandu gets after visiting the city in 2013. San festival the place was the real deal. In terms of being a bit crowded. Loving the energy though.

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