One of my friend who is a nursing mother to an eight month old baby told me that she was fasting, I wondered what for? She said it was Hartalika Teej (on 24 August) and she will fast for complete 24 hours. The fast was Nirjala, which means she had to fast for 24 hours without taking even a drop of water. And she actually did. I wondered how these women get so much strength. Hartalika Teej is celebrated in some parts of north India with great zeal, mainly in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. I t is also celebrated in Nepal. Married and unmarried woman on this day fast for entire 24 hours and offer prayers to goddess Parvati and lord Shiva. Married women wish for good health and long life of their husband and unmarried girls wish for a good husband like Lord Shiva.

The mythological story behind this fast goes like this- Goddess Parvati was in deep love with Lord Shiva wanted to get him as her husband , but Shiva was an ascetic and didn’t want to get married hence in order to get lord Shiva as her husband, Parvati went to Himalayas and worshipped for years remaining hungry and thirsty. Finally one day her prayers were heard and Shiva agreed to marry her. Hartalika Teej is celebrated to commemorate the day Lord Shiva accepted Parvati’s love and reciprocated it. Women worship goddess Parvati on this day as Hartalika and Teej Mata.

There are three types of Teej, they are Haryali, Kajari and Hartalika Teej. In the literal sense “teej” refers to “three”. Hartalika Teej falls on the third day of first fortnight of Hindu month of Bhadra , which falls in August –September. Prayers and Shringar (adornment) holds a great significance on this day. Women, on this auspicious day, wake up early in the morning and adorn themselves in new clothes and jewellery. Solah shringar (16 elements of adornment) is also done by some women. They set a Shiv-Parvati temple in their home or visit a temple and offer prayers to them. An Akhand Diya is lit in the morning and oiled regularly to keep it lit all through the day and night.

Different region have different way f keeping the fast, some remain without food and water till the next morning, however some women take fruits and sweets. It is said that one should continue the successive fasts in the same manner as first fast is taken. One of my friends also told me that since she was pregnant during one of the fast, her husband took it on behalf of her. Hence people take it as per their beliefs and rituals. At some places women gather and dance, sing and pray together . Whatever they way is and whatever the beliefs are behind the fast, it is amazing to see different festivals of India and its vibrant forms. Just next day to Hartalika Teej falls Ganesh Chaturthi another vibrant festival of vibrant India.

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