08/24/2009, 00.00
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Nepali women fast for Shiva and for their dignity

by Kalpit Parajuli
From August 22 to 24 thousands of women celebrate the annual festival of Teej and pray for their husbands. The gesture, made by wives and girlfriends is also an opportunity to highlight women's rights often violated behind closed doors.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The Hindu festival of Teej dedicated to the god Shiva ended today. Beginning on the morning of the 22, the annual event involves most Nepalese women. Wives and unmarried girls remain in prayer for three days in the temples or at home, fasting from dawn to dusk. In this way, they implore the god Shiva to grant the men of their family health and fortune.

The festival of Teej is derived from an ancient legend that Parbati, Shiva's wife, stood for three days without eating or drinking before she could marry the deity.

Women from all walks of society take part in the festival. One of these is the actress Rekha Thapa, still single, which states that " family is one of the most important things for me. This is why I offer prayers to Shiva for a future husband. "

The level of involvement differs depending on age. B. Haridi, 68, says that "this gesture is part of our culture and I am confident that thanks to my fasting god will grant my husband health and prosperity." 25 year-old Ranjana has a different view; "I do not think fasting brings happiness to my husband but I do this because it is part of our culture."

In the town of Bhaktapur, a few kilometers from the capital, the large turnout at the temple of Pashupati formed six hour-long queues. Because of the sun and the rule of fasting, thirty-six women were taken ill and aided by police brought to the hospital.

In addition to the religious overtones the festival is an opportunity for women in Nepal to express their opinion. Through their chants to the deity, they express their dissent at the condition of inferiors which they are often subjected to in the predominantly Hindu culture. Last year the event was used to express dissent against the Maoist government, which had tried to repress it.

During these days, Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, has asked all Hindu women to be promoters of cooperation and unity for the country. Returning from a visit to India, he stressed that "all women should use their power to reform society and build a new Nepal through a new constitution and the conclusion of the peace process."


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