- Dr. Namrata GR Raut
We being humans always tend to find a community based on interest/nationality/ethnicity/gender etc. which is great as it gives the feeling of belongingness. It’s an honor to be heard and express yourself without getting judged. The uneasiness starts when certain communities start to set rules on how something is very territorial for them and assume other folks don’t do it or have no clue. For example, Chaurchan and Teej in the context of the Mithila/Awadh of southern Nepal. Folks from Pahad think Teej is celebrated only by the certain Pahadi community whereas folks from southern Nepal think Chaurchan or Chhath is only celebrated by Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, or Tharu community.
On the contrary, Teej and Chaurchan, both are very well celebrated festivals in Mithila. I can’t forget how an educated folk from the Pahadi community asked me,
“Do you know Teej“.
My response was: “I do, do you?”
Obviously, he did not like that response, and I again broke his self-proclaimed territorial supremacy.
I am not here to talk about those primitive thoughts. Because these thoughts are going to reside for generations. Just make sure you correct them every time even if it’s for the gazillion times.
Then there are few with little information or self-proclaimed elite, who thinks that folks have JUST copied if Teej is celebrated in southern Nepal/Maithili/Awadhi community.
And then if we dive deeper, folks tend to tie different celebrations as per caste system…sad…but bitter truth!!! Its slowly progressing, but a long way to GO!
I am from Mithila, speak Maithili, and have a tradition of Teej from the last five generations that I am aware of…just saying!!!
Oh, and the same thing with Chaurchan. We do have generational traditions, again five that I can remember of! And our family doesn’t have the traditions of Chhath. So, it all depends on the generational passing of the customs or the adaptations from the community one lives in. Hence it is good to ask rather than assumptions!
Another myth about Teej is that only married women observe this fast and are for husband….well….not entirely. I recall in Janakpur as a kid, some of the aunties observing teej who were widows.
I am not somebody who has the authority to tell people what to do and not do, but what’s not cool is you can observe any traditions and not get tied to certain circles like Pahadi or Madhesis or married/unmarried or widow.
Going into the history of Teej, there are many types of Teej, like Hartalika, Haryali , and Kajari Teej. Teej is observed on the third day of the new moon as per the lunar calendar. Hartalika teej is widely celebrated teej in Nepal. Teej is usually celebrated by the women, celebrating nature, the arrival of monsoon, and with the best wishes for the welfare of the family! And as changes are happening… Although very slow, even the men in the family started to observe this fast.
Teej starts on daar khane din which usually includes eating sweets, and fruits with friends and family at night as the next day includes the strict fast. Devotees celebrate it with dancing, singing, and telling their stories. The next day, which falls on the third day of the new moon of the lunar month of Bhadra is a strict fast without water and food. The fast day usually goes with praying to Lord Shiva-Parvati, the God/Dess of power, destruction, and protection. The final day is breaking the fast.
The story behind Haritalika Teej is how Parvati (goddess of power/energy) observed this strict fast and hence finally got married to Shiva. Another story is that it was Lord Shiva who went for penance to have Parvati as a wife, but it was the time of matriarchy. As matriarchal power was on the rise, the story is written that Parvati went for the fast, to check the extreme rise of matriarchal power. As we all have witnessed, power of any kind be it from patriarchy or matriarchy is detrimental and can be molded as per societal needs.
I have a very fond memory of Teej that I would like to mention. On the day after the fast in Teej and Jitiya, I and my sisters will be the assistant to our Buwa (Dad). He will be the chef and cook favorite dishes for Mom. He loves cooking and helping my mom with daily chores. They have always worked as a team. This tradition continues in our family. This is his way of showing respect and love to my mom. And yeah, my dad is a very good cook.
One thing that got kind of tainted is the unnecessary show of jewellery and dresses and parties/alcohol in the name of “teej-darr“. Again, moral policing is not my job as folks always seem to defend anything and everything, they like on different grounds .
For Chaurchan it’s the celebration of the moon, and Ganesh (God of good luck who removes all the obstacles as per Sanatan dharma). It starts on a day before abstaining from non-veg and alcoholic drinks, also called “nahai-khai”, and falls on the fourth day (Chaturthi) of the new moon of Bhadra as per the lunar calendar.
On the day of Chaurchan, as the sun sets and the moon shows up, the hand-made Prasad of kheer-puri, laddoos, and fruits is offered as Arghya. There are so many stories that revolve around the celebration of Chaurchan.
One famous story is, when Chandradev (Moon God) saw Ganesh, he made fun of his look as his head is of an elephant. This shows the ignorance of Chandradev and his disrespectful attribute. This made Ganesh furious, and he cursed Chandradev that he would be ugly and that people who see him will have bad luck. Soon after realizing the grave mistake, Chandradev apologized.
As curses can’t be fully undone, Ganesha advised that whosoever looks Chandradev on the day of Ganesh Chaturthi/Chaurchan, with Arghya won’t have ill effects. That’s why the devotee offers Arghya on the day of Chaurchan.
Chaurchan, as Chhath, is eco-friendly as it uses mostly handmade utensils and homegrown crops and the basic Prasad is always, “kheer-puri”, along with malhaan (lotus leaf) and lotus flower on the banana leaf. I remember waiting all day and then getting excited to see the moon on the day of Chaurchan, till my grandma/pa offered the Arghya and we will get the Prasad.
It has been twelve years now in the States, and I still make sure on the day of Chaurchan, wait for the moon, and try to see the moon with fruit in my hands, and the fasting for Teej continues as well. That gives me a sense of belonging and connection to the soul of Mithila.
These are the stories that revolve around the Chaurchan and depend entirely on you about what you want to learn from them. For me, two major learnings are:
- We should not be arrogant about what we possess, be it look/wealth/knowledge because if you are not kind in your behavior, these are mere things!
- Apologizing for your mistake. It’s a strength to own up to our mistakes and apologize.
Your relationship with the ultimate energy/force/God/probability, however, you want to define it, is personal and shouldn’t be assumed. And if you dive deeper into the core teachings of any beliefs, it’s SAME! We all at the end of the day, know what’s good and bad, so don’t fall prey of blind teachings that has been bended over time by some for the benefits of certain group.
I am not a big fan of fasting if it has adverse effects on your health, so please be mindful. And most importantly, if someone wants to observe any traditions/culture that brings peace to them, shouldn’t be judged by anyone who-so-ever it may be! Also, the world would be such a great place if we stop categorizing humans in different boxes!
Being a scientist, I also investigate all reasoning but then there is always something that can’t be explained, and hence psi phenomena, the transcendence of space and time, and spirituality are coming into the picture in modern science as well (Proof of Spiritual Phenomena). However, one thing that research has highlighted is doesn’t matter which energy/force/God/probability, you follow, this is the discipline that reduces mental illness, and suicide rates (Spirituality, religiousness, and mental health: A review of the current scientific evidence by Giancarlo Lucchetti et. al (2021).
Whether you are familiar with, observe, or not observe Teej or Chaurchan, or are sarcastic about all forms of religion, these celebrations are a good time to get together, be with your loved ones, and appreciate the cultures.
तीज आ चौरचन मनाबै वाला सब गोटे के बहुत बहुत शुभकामनाIII