Teej, one of the popular festivals among the ethnic Nepalese women is celebrated with various cultural functions and Saamuhik Daar (group meal) in different states and cities in the US.
Resettled Bhutanese in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had a remarkable Teej (Women’s Day) celebration this year. The auditorium at St. Anne Elementary School at Castle Shannon, Pittsburgh reverberated with Teejako Lahara Aayo Bari Lai (popular Nepali song that women sing during Teej festival) at 11 am in the morning on September 4, 2016.
Women from all walks of life clad in red saaris, tillaharis entertained the gathering with series of folk songs and group dances.
Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh (BCAP) organizes Teej each year with the motto of empowering women and encourages them to engage in-group activities. This year they celebrated the festival with the slogan ‘Empowering Healthy Families’.
Addressing the gathering on behalf of the organizing committee Lok Mahat Bhandari stated, “the community we represent, and the community we call it as “ours” has its unique identity. We are brought up in the community that has a rich culture and has successfully bonded us together. The Teej is not only meant for the women but also for a healthy and happy family. This festival is one of the preserved traditions by our ancestors that empowers women and sow the seeds of love and respect among the family members.
This year BCAP came with the slogan ‘Empowering Healthy Families’ to commemorate this unique festival.”
An octogenarian, Juddha Bir Bhandari, who attended the whole event, expressed his happiness stating, “ I am so happy. Before I left for America in 2009, I had a feeling that the culture, tradition or rituals – all would be left behind and would just remain in our memory. I was absolutely incorrect. If you have a wish, everything is possible in this land. I see all around us equally respect our cultural values. Young generation should be educated about our cultural values.”
Besides, women from the Bhutanese community- women representatives from different agencies, Department of Human Services, hospitals, schools, and foundations joined the group dances and Samuhik Daar (group meal).
Chief coordinator of the event, Bishnu Timsina thanked all the attendees, guests and volunteers for joining and making the event successful. She also thanked St. Anne Elementary School for providing the space for the second time to host Teej program. Khara Timsina and Biswaz Gurung emceed the event.
Harrisburg observed a grand celebration of ‘Teej’, an auspicious event of Nepalese women today. It was wonderful to see hundreds of ethnic Nepalese women, who were in their best attire and ornaments throng together to dance their hearts out on September 4, 2016.
The program was well organized by Organization for Hindu Religion and Culture (OHRC). OHRC is a non-profit organization founded by Bhutanese volunteer elites of Harrisburg in July 2013 and supported by all the Nepali Hindus. This organization organizes numerous socio-cultural events each year for the good and spiritual contentment of Bhutanese and Nepali community. Currently, OHRC runs Nepali Language Class on Saturdays and Gita learning class on Sundays. It also hosts ‘Bhakti Sangalo’, a short TV program once each month.
According to the chairman of OHRC, Yadu P Achaya, Teej was celebrated with much more grandeur and exhilaration. He said, “The participation of our mothers and sisters was stupendous and unprecedented. For the whole day the atmosphere of Lingle Park (where the event took place) was charged with excitement and merrymaking”.
The program began at 9 in the morning with the priests chanting hymns. Women on fasting for wishing long and healthy life for their husbands participated with offerings to Lord Shiva. The actual musical thrill began at noon. Young girls and adult ladies danced to the nostalgic Teej songs played from the stereo on the woofers. It appeared as if they were in a musical trance.
Yogi Luitel and Manju Tamang acted the masters of ceremonies, who efficiently presented the flow of event items. In addition to unrehearsed amateur Teej dances, Rainbow Dance Class of Harrisburg (owned by Durga Pokhrel) also presented four well-choreographed dances. Tula R. Neopaney, an active member of OHRC, talked intermittently on the progress and programs of OHRC. Lucky draws with gift hampers and musical chair were other highlights of the program.
Religious-cultural programs like Teej definitely provides not only ample gratification to current ethnic Nepali population but also passes the cultural torch down to successive generations. Organizations like OHRC in various cities of the US and other countries of the world where the Bhutanese refugees were resettled are doing a pretty good job in keeping the candle of Nepali culture burning.
PA media, ABC27 and FOX43 also videotaped the highlights of the event and completed some Teej-related interviews.
Amidst a great function on 4th of September, 2016 in the city of Manchester, Haritalika Teej was observed in a grant fashion. Over 150 women from different cities: Concord, Laconia, Manchester, Hooksett, Salem and Nashua were present in the event. The event was organized by Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire in coordination with Women Council and youths from the community with the objective of women empowerment and women engagement. Females were seen dancing, singing, getting together with friends, sharing stories, dressing up with henna-colored hands, wearing red, green or yellow clothes and sharing festive foods.
This monsoon festival represents celebration of the bounty of nature with social activities, rituals and customs. Teej is traditionally observed by women praying to goddess Parvati and lord Shiva for wellness of their husband, children and their own self.
Speaking to BNS, Bishnu Khadka, the coordinator of the event said, “Teej celebration is more than a festival. It is solidarity of women for achieving something productive and sustainable. It needs to be celebrated as a symbol of women liberation, women empowerment, women engagement”.
During the event, community volunteers were recognized. Recognizing the volunteers, Executive Director of Bhutanese Community of New Hampshire, Tika Acharya, said, “You are agents of change in our community. To make this event successful, I have witnessed you all actively involved by interacting with the organizing team and made opportunities available within the group for all. It is a symbol of informational leadership development”.
Tanka Suvedi, one of the members of the organizing team, stated, “The overwhelming presence of women made us proud and encouraged us to do more meaningful and constructive works in future”.
Radhika Acharya gave vote of thanks on behalf of the organizing team to the audience, volunteers, and sponsors. Cafe Momo, Namaste Nepal, International Literature Society-New Hampshire Chapter and Devi Timsina Foundation were the primary sponsors of the event. Program host of the event was Tika Rizal Siwakoti.
Community organizations based in Arizona, Colorado, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas to name some are reported observed Teej with various functions.
BNS correspondents from Pennsylvania and New Hampshire contributed to this report.