Hartalika Teej: The Festival of Love!

Hartalika Teej is festival of Love celebrated by married Hindu women for the long life of their beloved husbands. Just like Karwa Chouth which every Indian knows thanks mainly to Bollywood. Somehow, this festival, though one of the most important festival in the states like Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chattisgarh,  has not reached to the other parts of India. Hartalika Teej is the most important of three Teej festivals, other two being Hariyali Teej and Kajari Teej. Though there are variations in the rituals in different states, the basic concept is the same, which is the fasting observed by married women in the worship of Parvati Devi for the long lives of their husbands.

Hartalika Teej is celebrated on the third day of the first fortnight in the Hindu Calender month of Bhadrapada. ( Bhadrapada Shukla Paksha Trutiya). As per English calendar, it’s in the month August / September. The main deities of the festival are Shiva and Parvati. Shiva and Parvati are known for bestowing a happy married life upon their worshippers. Even unmarried girls worship Shiva-Parvati for getting a good husband. Shiva is known as Ardhanarishwara which represents the union of Purusha (Shiva) and Prakruti (Parvati) Who are interdependent for the creation of the universe. Likewise, man and woman are interdependent on each other in their lives.

Hartalika Teej is a colourful festival wherein married women and unmarried girls adorn themselves beautifully with new clothes, jewelry and mehandi on hands and feet. In Maharashtra, women dress in green saree and green bangles. They offer fresh fruits and green vegetables to Parvati Mata.  Beautifully painted coconut is offered to the female relatives. After the rituals get over, Brahmins and small girls are offered the feast of rice patolis and jaggery steamed in banana leaves, mixed vegetables cooked with spices and coconut milk, a sweet made from coconut milk and rice and tender coconut water. Later the women savour the Prasad. In some states, all the women devotees gather in one place or temple. They establish Parvati Mata in the center and form a semicircle around Her. Puja is performed with utmost devotion with holy offerings of turmeric, vermillion, flowers, leaves, fruits and sweets. Thereafter, the katha of Teej Mata is listened with utmost concentration. In some places,  women take bath applying red mud taken from the ground of the sacred Datiwan bush. This holy bath is believed to purify the women from all accumulated sins. Some have the tradition of keeping the lamp alight throughout the night in front of Hartalika. If the lamp is found extinguished in the next morning, it is considered as a bad omen.

Let’s know the story behind the Hartalika Festival. When Sati Devi was reborn as Parvati Devi, she started Her tapasya for attaining the grace of Lord Shiva in Himalayan Mountains. The Tapasya went for several years without the grace from Lord Shiva. As the years passed by, Parvati went on with Her penance with the divine wish of having Lord Shiva as Her husband. During penance, She survived only  on wet leaves. Later on She started consuming dry leaves. Then came the extreme part of Her spiritual discipline wherein She stopped eating leaves too and survived only on air. At this juncture of Her penance, Parvati got the name Goddess Aparna, the one who doesn’t eat even leaves. The penance was so rigorous that the mountains started to collapse. Lord Shiva opened His eyes from His meditation and was pleased by the penance of Parvati. He granted blessings to Parvati Devi. Hartalika Teej is supposed to be that divine day. Hence Parvati Devi is worshipped as Hartalika or Teej Mata.

Hence, some women fast on three days during Hartalika vrat without even water. They refrain from sleeping for three nights too. This is a symbolic of the rigorous penance of Parvati Devi for Lord Shiva. In some parts, the women fast till evening and break the fast after the ritual.

In today’s age, some liberal people find such Hindu festivals as regressive. Well, I hope that India being a secular country, even Hindus can do with some religious freedom to follow their customs, traditions, festivals and lifestyles without being attacked. I hope it’s not asking too much!

Jyothi Suparna Chincholi