Showing posts with label hindu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hindu. Show all posts

Aug 21, 2017

Ladies in red: Time for Teej!

Last Friday the Hindu festival of Teej began in Nepal! Teej is dedicated to the Goddess Parvati and commemorates her marriage to Lord Shiva. The three day long festival is primarily celebrated by women and involves feasting, fasting, dancing, singing, worship, prayers, and ritual bathing.

Lord Shiva and his wife the Goddess Parvati are deities in Hinduism. Lord Shiva is often pictured with a serpent around his neck, adorned with a crescent moon, the holy river Ganga flowing from his hair, and a third eye on his forehead. The Goddess Parvati is often pictured as beautiful, benevolent, and wearing a red sari. She is the Hindu deity of love, devotion, and fertility. Parvati is also the daughter of King Himavan, lord of the Himalayas, and thus has special importance in Nepal. 

Teej is said to be held upon the date of the marriage of Lord Shiva to the Goddess Parvati and is symbolic of the perfect union of male and female. Thus Parvati is the primary deity of Teej which celebrates married life and family ties. Above is a photo of a Shiva-Parvati temple in Nepal. See the images of the divine couple looking out the window of their temple in the above photo.

The red velvet mite (Trombidium) is called teej or rain bugs. This insect only appears during the monsoon season. It is thought that the mite is named after the festival, or possibly vice versa. Red, green, and gold are the auspicious colors of this festival.

Unfortunately I arrived at this Teej banquet a bit late, the ladies were already feasting so I didn't get a pic of the beautiful food.
The first day of Teej is called Dar Khane Din. It is a day of feasting. In Nepali, daro khana (दर्हो खाना) means heavy or rich food and din means day. Women work hard throughout the year but not have to do anything on this day. The feast is hosted by the menfolk. The women spend the day indulging themselves in sorha singaar - dressing up in their best clothing, adorning themselves with jewelry, eating delicious food, dancing, and singing. This is the only day of the year that allows women full freedom of expression here in Nepal. Consequently, women have traditionally used this occasion to commiserate and complain in the songs they sing while dancing. The celebration sometimes goes on till midnight, after which the 24-hour fast starts.

Often women are invited to multiple feasts. They try to dance off the rich and abundant food so they can eat more. This holiday is a very rare opportunity for married women from rural villages to go to their mother’s home. Parents will send an invitation or someone to bring their daughters to their home a day or two before the festival. The daughters help to prepare of the delicacies for the feast beforehand.

The second day of Teej is the fasting day. Some women fast completely not even taking a drop of water. Some women limit themselves to fruits and liquids. The fasting is to gain divine favor. The day is also devoted to poojas and prayers. Married women dress in their very finest outfits and jewelry to pray for the longevity, peace, and prosperity of their husband and family. Unmarried women dress in their finest and pray to be blessed with a good spouse. Men are not allowed to enter the most of Shiva Temples on this day.

Many women go to the nearest Shiva temple on the second day of Teej too. The holy Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu is thronged by women in red to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. Above is a photo of ladies cueing to enter Pashupatinath temple during Teej. Don't be surprised if these ladies bust out in song and dance while waiting!

Women gather in the temple and circumambulate the lingam (pillar-like symbol of Lord Shiva) propitiating it with flowers, sweets, milk, and coins. The saucer-like dish around the base of the lingam represents the Goddess Parvati.

If a temple is not nearby beautifully decorated idols of Shiva and Parvati are offered fruits, flowers, and poojas at home. Above you see a pooja or ritual prayer ceremony by women during Teej. 

The ritual prayers beseeching favor from Shiva and Parvati can also be solitary, simple, and heartfelt as shown in the above photo. The most important part of the pooja is the oil lamp. The lamp should remain burning throughout the night. An oil lamp which burns all night is believed to bring peace and prosperity to husband and family.

Last day of Teej, ladies bathing in the sacred Bagmati river with datiwan leaves
The third and final day of the festival is called Rishi Panchami. After the completion of the previous day's pooja, women pay homage to seven saints or sages or sapta rishi and offer further prayers to deities. A special bath is taken with the leaves and red mud found on the roots of the sacred datiwan bush. This act of purification is the final ritual of Teej. After this cleansing the women are considered absolved from all their misdeeds and transgressions for the year.

Teej celebrates a wife's love and devotion towards her husband as symbolized by the union of Shiva and Parvati. Teej ushers in the advent of the rainy Monsoon season too. Everyone takes a break from the sweltering heat of the Summer to enjoy the festivities and cooling rains. The backbreaking and muddy chore of weeding the rice paddies is done. It's also a rare occasion for married women to visit their parents and return with gifts for their in-laws and spouse. As with most festivals, Teej provides an opportunity to renew family bonds.

Hope all is well wherever you're at in the world! 
Any festivities going on where you're at? Do tell!


Dec 14, 2016

Nimbu-Mirchi Totka

If you come to India or Nepal you will see nimbu-mirchi totkas consisting of chilis and limes hanging on a string over doorways everywhere. Nimbu means lime, mirchi means chilis, and a totka is a sort of charm to ward off evils. Displaying the nimbu-mirchi is an ancient Hindu practice that you'll see not only over doorways, but also adorning vehicles and dangling from portraits of beloved ancestors and politicians.

Unknown Bollywood starlet chatting with nimbu-mirchi sellers.
The custom of tying limes and chilis on a thread and hung outside the door or on a vehicle is intended to distract the inauspicious Hindu goddess called Alakshmi or Jayestha. Alakshmi is the older sister of the very auspicious goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Alakshmi is said to bring poverty, strife, mayhem, discord, misfortune, barrenness, strife, jealousy, malice, hardship and ruination where ever she goes. She plants distrust and misunderstanding among family members, friends, and relatives. She is often depicted as a withered hag or a dark skinned woman with pendulous belly and breasts enthroned or astride a donkey and accompanied by crows or an owl. Alakshmi also loves to eat hot, sour, and pungent things. The hope is that the nimbu-mirchi will avert Alakshmi's inauspicious attentions and she'll continue on her devastating way.

Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth with an owl.
Interestingly, you will often the goddess of wealth Lakshmi pictured with an owl. Owls represent arrogance and willful ignorance in Hindu culture. The owl in Lakshmi's beneficent presence represents a warning that wherever she goes so does Alakshmi and her misfortune. The message is to beware of the potential for calamity that may accompany Lakshmi's blessings if both goddesses are not propitiated properly. It's sort of the Hindu version of the Western proverb, "Pride goeth before a fall." Meaning that if you're too boastful and self-important, something bad will inevitably happen.

You can easily make your own nimbu-mirchi totka! All you need is black thread, a needle, seven green chillies and one ripe yellow lime. Take a needle and the thread and tie a thick knot, a black stone, or piece of charcoal at the end. Pierce the threaded needle through the lime first and then through the seven green chillies. Depending on region the chilis and lemon can be strung in different order but there are usually seven chilis and one lemon per nimbu-mirchi wherever you go.

Preferably on a Saturday morning tie your nimbu-mirchi in center of the main door of your house or establishment. Take care that it does not interfere with the opening or closing of the door and movements of people. On vehicles you may attach the nimbu-mirchi to the front bumper, top center of the windshield, or near the wheel well on motorcycles or bicycles. The following Monday morning take the nimbu-mirchi down and throw it away from your house, establishment, or vehicle near to the roadside. Generally in busy marketplace areas the spent nimbu-mirchi is thrown on the road. This is not a good practice as whomever steps upon the discarded nimbu-mirchi imbibes all the bad effects accrued by it during the week. So when you visit crowded marketplaces beware of stepping on a discarded nimbu-mirchi!
Don't step on that!!!
If perchance you do happen to step upon a discarded nimbu-mirchi there is a special procedure to undo any ill effects. First, pick up the nimbu-mirchi with a piece of cloth or handkerchief. Then take it to a place of your choice and burn it while reciting this mantra to the goddess Lakshmi nine times. You must only touch the totka with the cloth and burn the cloth with the totka. Fire is believed to cleanse the negative energies accumulated in the nimbu-mirchi. The mantra is an appeal to the goddess Lakshmi to counter any adverse effects as well.
Should you feel you need a less perishable totka for your inauspicious problems nimbu-mirchis are available in more permanent forms also. The enameled metal nimbu-mirchi pictured above is featured in an online home furnishing company in India. Plastic, resin, and silicone nimbu-mirchis are  also available as key fobs, luggage tags, earrings, and necklaces. As if that weren't enough you can buy smartphone cases, t-shirts, tea sets, and umbrellas emblazoned with nimbu-mirchis too!

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