Nepal’s festival season may be upon us, but so is a pandemic that has affected more than 20 million people and caused over 700 thousand deaths worldwide. Despite taking extreme measures such as putting cities under lockdown and halting all major routes of domestic and international travel, Nepal has only seen continuous spread of the virus since it reported its very first case in late January.
Nearly seven months since a lockdown that lasted four months from March to July, earlier this Wednesday, all three cities within the Kathmandu Valley (Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur) once again issued a prohibition on the movement of all people and vehicles, with an exception on essential services, i.e., a lockdown 2.0. So with one of Nepal’s biggest festivals, Teej, falling on Friday this week, celebrations will have to be kept at a very minimum, as difficult as that may be.
Teej is a major festival that falls on the third day of the month of Bhadra (September) in the Nepali calendar. It is observed by Hindu women, mostly from the Brahmin and Chhetri communities and women from Awadhi culture in Tarai.
Traditionally on this day, women observe a day-long fast, visit temples and worship Lord Shiva and Parvati for marital harmony and good fortune. On the eve of Teej, they hold feasts before fasting the following day. Notable traditions during this festival include wearing red clothes, eating savory foods, and gathering together to sing and dance to traditional songs.
This year, however, celebrations will be different. At a time when social distancing is one of the safest ways to contain the coronavirus, it makes very little sense to celebrate a festival that feels incomplete without being surrounded by friends and families. Nevertheless, there are many alternative ways in which people can still enjoy Teej in the midst of a pandemic. Here are a few:
Food is a big part of celebration, and any celebration feels incomplete without a gathering of loved ones. During Teej, especially, women long to sing and dance with their sisters, mothers, girlfriends and colleagues. Not doing so almost takes away from the festival, which among many other things, signifies the celebration of womanhood.
However, one can still enjoy delicious food with just the members of the family in their household. And at the end of the day, fewer people require less cooking.
Dressing up anyways
A very significant part of Teej for women is adorning themselves with colorful traditional attire and jewelry, then gathering with other women to celebrate their femininity and womanhood. But what’s wrong with doing that just at home, even if it is alone? In fact, a lesson that could be taken away from doing this is that a woman does not need any form of validation from others around her to fully embrace her womanhood, and that she can have fun by herself.
Also, by staying at home, there is less chance of dirtying one’s beautiful saris and/or losing expensive jewelry, something that could easily happen at a crowded event or gathering.
Indoor photo shoots
Another huge part of celebrating Teej, or really any occasion for that matter, is taking an infinite amount of photos and then posting them on social media. Although it is more fun to do outdoor photoshoots with friends and family at restaurants or party palaces, there is nothing wrong with using a home balcony or terrace as the backdrop for one’s photos.
Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but even curtains, sofas and windows can make for a great backdrop, depending on how creative one can get.
Virtual dance party
The world would be dealing with this pandemic very differently if the technologies we have today did not exist. Working from home, self-quarantine and isolation would be impossible if there were no means to communicate with each other.
But it is the 21st century, where softwares like Zoom exists to provide services such as video telephony. So for those women who absolutely have to dance to properly celebrate Teej, hosting a virtual dance party has never been easier. Who knows, in the future it may even change the clubbing and partying scene forever.
A pandemic should never be an excuse to not celebrate festivals. Instead, it should be a way to teach people that hosting big feasts and social gatherings are not the only means to have fun, or even necessary at all, and that there are so many other ways to enjoy oneself.
With Dashain and Tihar, two of Nepal’s biggest festivals, also just around the corner, such modifications to celebrations will most likely have to be taken then too, if Covid-19 is still around. So for this time’s Teej, social distancing please!
June Karkee is the News-Editor for Kathmandu Pati English, covering politics, peace, conflict, security, defense, and diplomacy issues. She holds a BA in Global Studies and before joining Kathmandu Pati, she interned at The Kathmandu Post and at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nepal. Her areas of interest and passion include development studies, globalization and feminism, and the intersections between these. She (occasionally) tweets @juneb0rninjuly