Teej: Religion, Music and Degradation
By Mannu Shahi
Teej is a female-oriented popular Hindu festival that rejoices in the union of the Hindu power-duo Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. After Parvati began a day-long fast in the name of her husband Shiva, till this day Hindu women from all over the globe go on a fast for a cordial marital lifestyle. Teej falls in the month of Shravana or Bhadra (August/September) as per the Nepali calendar. There are different patterns of celebration according to one’s culture, but the Nepali celebration of Teej is called Hartalika Teej.
This festival pours the cognitive aspect of women’s life through music. Gathering of all women is a requisite for this day. Married women leave their in-laws’ homes and gather at their maternal place, with their friends and relatives. This gathering with music evokes nostalgic memories. Thus it also serves as a medium to share and flood out their miseries and life struggles. Music is a major mood setter of this festival as all their suppressed feelings are expressed through music.
The commercialised music industry hits its peak point this season, as unknown artists to famous musicians are seen promoting their music. About a month before Teej, videos of women wearing red-coloured dresses, high makeup and loads of jewelries are portrayed dancing to the tunes of songs that usually grasp the concept of religious acknowledgement, fasting, misery of life, personal relationships, paternal longings and more.
However, in the recent years, such cultural music has been exploited in both context and presentation. Although tradition-inclined viewers seem quite disturbed by these degradations, nevertheless, the Teej industry expands its production scale each year, and such messages seem to be well-received, promoted and vigorously criticised at the same time.
Although the traditional approach to Teej music exults women as being the centerpiece of the festival, however, contemporary songs represent women as mere tools of entertainment. Similar to the notion of an “item” song, the modern Teej music enhances the patriarchal concept further and employs a religious medium to objectify women; as so, such serious propagandas could be taken subconsciously by the common Nepalese as light-hearted comedy. And to top it all off, unaware women dance to these very tracks, never realising how their favourite humorous lines in reality are suppressing their very gender status in the society.
Don’t forget that Nepal is a patriarchal country, and so this society automatically enables the inhabitants to distinguish their social practices. And of all the traditional music practiced thoroughout the year, the only festival related to women solely reveals such use of vulgarity. Thus, isn’t it high time, instead of dancing to these disguised patriarchal marketing, we women stop and question, who is benefitting from this dysfunctional agenda?