Last year the festival of Teej was just after I arrived in Nepal. Then, myself and other newly arrived volunteers were taken to see the crowds at Pashnupatinath, the traditional temple in Kathmandu for worship at this festival. This year I joined the celebrations in my home town, Besisahar.
To start the day Srijana, a colleague from Global Action Nepal, invited me and some friends and colleagues for a meal at her flat. She cooked us a delicious daal bhat (rice and lentils) meal with fresh fish, tarkaari (vegetables) saag (greens) and home made achaar (spicy pickle). Dherai mito chhaa! (very tasty!)
Many women of all ages were dressed in beautiful red and gold saris with green necklaces and gold jewellery. Their black hair was carefully arranged and decorated with traditional red, green and gold ornaments. How lovely they looked.
On this day, married women pray for the health and well-being of their husbands, whilst the unmarried fast and pray for a good husband! Not quite a celebration of womanhood I had originally thought, but the women do enjoy themselves with dancing and singing later in the day. Even young girls put on their prettiest dresses to celebrate the day.
On the way back to my flat I came across an interesting procession. Accompanied by a band, a line of children and young people danced along the lane in a line. They all held rice grass in both hands, and imitated planting the rice to each side as they danced. The boys were all dressed as girls, and many girls were dressed in traditional clothes or their best party dresses.
Several pairs of boys had their faces covered with masks or painted and were harnessed together to imitate the buffalo ploughing the rice terraces. Some wore motorbike helmets too, but removed these later as they were too hot to wear for dancing. The farmer was also part of the procession.
The band had a couple of players with the traditional long horns. These seemed really hard to blow, as the men playing them were red in the face from the effort. At the lane junction beside my flat they all danced in a circle for several minutes.
Many men enjoy dancing and dance well. This man tried to persuade me to dance too, but as it was mostly children dancing I declined to make a spectacle of myself! Instead I made friends with some of the women who are my neighbours.
I sat on the steps outside my flat talking to these women, or trying to anyway! My Nepali language is improving with practice, I understand quite a bit of what is said to me, but I still find difficulty replying, except in simple phrases. However most people are delighted to find a 'biddeshi' who can speak even a few words of Nepali! "Dherai Raamro Chhaa!"(It's very good) is a very useful phrase I have found.
I had dressed up for the day too, in my best kurta surwaal, and this seemed to meet the approval of the women I met, many smiled and some spoke to me.
It was good to be part of this day of celebration. Thank you to my Nepali friends and colleagues for including me.