August 28th 2014 was a public holiday in Nepal in honour of the Teej festival.
“Teej is the fasting festival of women in Nepal… Married women observe Teej fast to honor Lord Shiva and for long and healthy life of their husband. Unmarried girls also observe fast on this day for a good husband. Teej celebrations lasts for three pious days. Traditional dances and songs form an important feature of Teej celebrations. Red color is considered auspicious for women observing Teej fast and so most of them dress up in red or bridal clothes.” Happy Wink
“On this day, the women dress gaily and visit a nearby Shiva temple singing and dancing on the way. The Pashupatinath Temple gets the highest number of devotees.” From Wikipedia – scroll down a little to get to the ‘Observance in Nepal’ section.
So, it was clear to me that on this public holiday I should make my way to the Pashupatinath Temple (Nepal’s most important Hindu temple, handily situated just to the east of Kathmandu) to check out the action. Although the security had been stepped up to handle the “300,000 women devotees” expected to visit during the day (Himalayan Times).
#1 I arrived around 9am and was immediately greeted with the joy of ladies in their glorious red saris dancing in the streets, although the site was far from at it’s busiest yet;
#2 Having queued since the early hours for entry to the sacred Shiva temple area these sensible ladies were taking a break from singing, dancing & worshipping to watch the riotous scene;
#3 Throughout this third day of the festival many women maintain a complete fast. They do not even drink water despite queuing and dancing for hours in the heat of the hot sun. On the left hand side background of this view you can see an outside dance floor where, accompanied by loud music being broadcast reminiscent (to me at least) of a Bollywood movie, a large crowd of women started an impromptu dance and the watching crowd soon decided I should join them;
#4 This is the same dance floor from above. By this time I have near wilted from dancing in the sunshine and have retired. However, each of the Nepali ladies near to me on the dance floor took a turn in dancing with me and showing me a few moves. Each with a huge grin on their faces it must be said (I must have been quite a sight, towering above them, jerking around somewhat erratically) and they all made me feel hugely welcome. Also in this shot I couldn’t help adding in the Nepali Girl Guide who was also taking photos of the spectacle – it was an absolute blast of colour and vibrancy;
#5 However, with some 300,000+ ladies wishing to visit the sacred Shiva temple on this day, there were the usual queues which seem to be an inevitable part of the Hindi festivals I have had the honour to witness. Again, with guidance from the Girl Guides, Boy Scouts (seen here), Police and this time even a riot squad – watch it ladies!? – the queues were progressing steadily closer;
#6 The ‘hanging around’ allowed me to catch this detail shot of one of the lady’s beautiful sari;
#7 The nearby market also supplied all the required items for a successful temple visit including offerings, flowers and these colourful tika powders;
#8 After around 4 hours taking in the sights & sounds I was utterly exhausted and started the walk back across town to go home. The queues of ladies approaching the temple by now were absolutely vast, simply stretching into the distance;
#9 Though the Pashupatinath Temple was spectacular in it’s size and grandeur of celebration, on the walk home I also enjoyed turning what felt like each street corner to find another much smaller temple with it’s own dedicated group of ladies worshipping, dancing and enjoying the special day;