The monsoon festival of Teej is celebrated in Rajasthan for two days on the third and fourth days of the month of Shrawan (July-August) in honour of the goddess Parvati. It is a time for song, dancing, telling stories, cooking, wearing new clothes and swinging.
The festival is held in honour of the goddess Parvati who, according to mythology, was reunited with her husband Shiva on this day. In celebration, she decreed that this day was holy and anyone who invoked her on this day will blessed with whatever they desired.
This is a very special festival for married women. On these two days, married women would dress themselves in green, red, or yellow dresses, hands and their feet painted in delicate designs of red (henna) and pray for long and happy marriages and the prosperity of their children. They worship the goddess and sing songs in her honour. Afterwards they amuse themselves by swinging on swings. Devotion to the goddess and decoration of women’s bodies are important themes in this festival and both are carried out religiously.
Parents of married daughters often send gifts on these days which can include sweets, henna, new bangles and a new dress. This sending of gifts is known as ‘sindhara’, which means the decoration of women and their charming beauty. Unmarried women will receive gifts of decoration and a dress as well. Often married daughters will return to their parents’ home on this day where their brothers will set up swings for them. Thus, the monsoon festival Teej can be seen as reuniting families, as in accordance to the myth.
Teej is known as a monsoon festival where in India, and especially in the deserts of Rajasthan, good monsoons are known to bring auspicious things, a good harvest and a good life yet to come. The festival expresses happiness and prosperity in the future.
As stated, during this festival married women usually visit their parents’ houses. Unfortunately not all are able to do this due to various reasons. There are songs that are sung which express their parents’ sadness if they do not visit. “My dear brother! Why are you sleeping?/Your mother’s daughter is pining in her in-laws’ house/O mother! Other girls are going to swing/To me my mother-in-law has given lots to grind”.
The practice of swinging is another important aspect in this festival. Swinging, according to mythology, was something that the Hindu gods did to frolic and to have fun like human beings. According to Hindu mythology, the gods come down to earth for the festival in order to swing. There is also a song which is sung that shows this aspect, “On the branch of the magnolia tree I have put a swing/ Its rope is of silk, I have put a swing/ On the branch of the magnolia tree I have put a swing/ Its plank is of sandal wood, I have put a swing/ To swing on my swing, the Sun and Moon have come/ They have brought their queens to swing on my swing/ While swinging they stopped and said, we like red bangles/ Their mothers will buy them red bangles, I have put a swing ….”.
There are other elements which make up the importance of Teej. As a monsoon festival, rain is very important in this area. Rain helps the crops grow and gives life to the desert, so this festival can be seen as a thank you to the gods for blessing the people with rain. It is held after a period of scorching heat and the coming of the rainy season which is vital for the people’s livelihoods and survival.
Bhatnagar, Manju (1988) The Monsoon Festival Teej in Rajasthan, Asian Folklore Studies, Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture.