BRAT or No BRAT, Say no to “Patriarchy” this Teej — NPD English
It was yet almost a month for Teej Celebration and a wave of tornadoes was observed on social media after Sophia Thapa launched her song “Aba ko Teej, No ‘Brat’ Please”. Sophia Thapa had to face harsh criticisms for her song and eventually had to make the music video on her YouTube channel private. Although the song simply suggested not to drain own health and unfollow unnecessary rituals, chauvinist Hindus were all over the place propagating the “hate comments”, demanding an apology from Sophia and even calling her missionary. Before we get deep into how Teej is derogatory and is only aiding the patriarchal system, let’s talk about the Teej itself.
Teej, also known as Hartalika Teej, is celebrated on the third day of the bright half of the lunar month Bhadra. If we break the word Hartalika, “Harit” means abduction and “Aalika” means female friend. As per Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvati, daughter of the King of Himalaya, admired Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction and Creation. Her father had decided to get her married to Lord Vishnu. Thus, a friend of Goddess Parvati took her to the thick forest and she led an ascetic life then on. Lord Shiva decided to test her sincerity and thus disguised himself as rich Vishnu but she was not distracted at all. He was impressed by her dedication and gave his word to marry her. Eventually, they got married with her father’s blessings and thus, this day is celebrated to mark the happy ending of Goddess Parvati’s story.
This three-day festival starts with getting together to enjoy the “fancy” dinner which is called “Dar Khane Din” followed by 24 hours rigid fast where women are not even allowed to drink water and thus ending fast by drinking the water used to wash the husband’s leg. This festival is celebrated by women for the well being and long life of their husbands, firm relationship between them, and purification of one’s body and soul. While married women make wishes for the healthy life of their husbands, unmarried girls pray to get married to a “good” husband. Women and young girls in red exquisite saris make every possible attempt to lure Shiva’s attention.
The problem is not the celebration but the reasons and rituals of the celebration. The ritual of beautifying oneself by wearing heavy ornaments with uncomfortable clothes, the ritual of rigid fasting, the ritual of drinking water used to wash husband’s legs, and others are the issues. As Sophia Thapa said in her song, “No Khuta ko Pani, Mahila Purush dubai nai Barabari” which translates as Say No to water used to wash legs, females and males, both, are equal. Furthermore, Teej has become more of a “trend” where people have to show off who has more “riches” to throw the fanciest party. The deeply pious people believe it’s women’s responsibility to please Lord Shiva in order to marry a “good” husband but they often tend to forget that Lord Shiva has an androgynous avatar called Ardhanarishvara which represents the synthesis of both masculine and feminine energies of the universe. The avatar illustrates how the female principle is inseparable from male principle and yet, Hindus tend to comprehend the fact as per their convenience and propagate cis-gendered heteronormative, gender-binary narrative and dominate women for an unknown period of time giving men an upper hand.
At the same time, Teej booms the music industry as it lures the musicians and singers to produce folk songs for the celebration. However, most of those folk songs are, in some way, insulting a woman for some reason and are derogatory in nature. Those folk songs show that no matter how modern, society portrays itself, the community is still engulfed by the patriarchal mindset and people believe that the women are only eligible to do the home chores. It also depicts the lack of gratitude towards the unlimited hours of unpaid works by females and young girls in the home for the family members. Furthermore, festivals like Teej facilitate neo-liberal feminist corporations to showcase themselves as women-centric industries while all they do is give discounts and offers a discount on “beautification” and cosmetic products, saris and other “women” related products and services to lure women and young girls.
Although The Teej “industry” relishes women as the center of the festival, the notion is to employ a “religious” medium to objectify women and enhance the patriarchal mindset further. These serious issues and challenges are subconsciously taken as “light-hearted comedy” by common people. Moreover, non-enlightened women and young girls dance to these “Teej” music, without realizing these “fun” tracks are actually dominating their own very gender status in the community. Being run on a patriarchal system, the communities in Nepal, involuntarily, enable the disparities in social practices and gender acceptance. This is high time, we question the people benefitting from these dysfunctional agendas, rather than entertaining these camouflaged patriarchal marketing tricks. Thus, either Brat or No Brat, let’s say no to “Patriarchy” this Teej by slating flawed and wounded rituals in the name of traditions.
// Shailee Chaudhary (The writer is a Queer feminist and freelancer who rigorously advocates for the equitable rights of people from different intersections and their inclusivity)
Originally published at https://nepalpostdaily.com on August 1, 2020.