09/18/2012, 00.00
NEPAL

Teej festival honouring women divides Nepal between rich and poor

by Kalpit Parajuli
Because of the economic crisis, only the rich can enjoy the celebration. Women exchange gifts and fast for their husbands' longevity. Local media now report that some women have sold a kidney to get money to buy jewels and the traditional red sari.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The festival of Teej, which sees wives fast in honour of Shiva and for their husbands' longevity, is dividing Nepali society. Celebrations began today across the country, but if high caste women mark the occasion with temple visits and dances where they can show off their clothes and jewellery, working class women cannot even get a day off.

In many parts of the country, religious authorities did not inform the public of the date of the festivity in order to exclude lower castes. And according to Nepalis media, some women sold a kidney to buy jewels and the traditional red sari in order to participate in celebrations.

"In the past few years, Teej has become a fashionable event," said Hindu culture expert Govinda Tandon. However, "Only the country's rich and powerful families can take part. By contrast, most Nepali women live in poverty and cannot even afford a meal day. This offends Hinduism and divides society."

According to the tradition, women wearing a red sari meet to exchange food, clothes and jewels a day before they fast.

"Only some can respect religious traditions," said Rima Dahal, a Hindu woman who works for a construction company in Kathmandu. "If I miss a day of work, no one will feed my children. There are no festivities for me."

She blames a corrupt ruling class, one that uses festivities to lead a trendy lifestyle instead of helping the people.

Rekha Thapa, a famous Nepali actress, also criticised Teej's commercialisation. On TV, she said that Hinduism has "divided Nepali society between haves and have-nots."

 

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