Two days ago Nepal’s most awaited “baby” had been born, after a long overdone “pregnancy”: the Constitution – coinciding with the Teej Festival which sanctifies femininity. Once again it had been shown that for men to be succesful, they need the sacrifices (fasting) of their women, and to show respect to them by allowing them to enjoy freedom, joy and a break from tiring household duties.
After long months, and actually even years of prolonged disability to create and endorse a Constitution (“Samidan” in Nepalese), finally Nepal’s Constitutional Assembly had managed to make it. How is this possible? Already no one believed in that day to ever arrive. Where was that knot which Nepali society was unable to untie for months and years? Many real and irrational obstacles had been blocking its way. Politicians entangled in senseless and endless discussions, civilians in endless violent protests, how could it happen that Nepal finally got one step nearer towards democracy?
Not many Nepalis would understand either, because most Nepalis nowadays, even when claiming to be Hindu or Buddhist, do not consider God and religion to be a crucial power when deciding about politics. The most popular attitude in Nepal is currently ‘science’, to view life events with a materialistic approach. Even Buddhist lamas and Hindu Pandits of the new age look up at scientists in the West, when it comes to prove some elements from their respective religions. Although Nepali Hindus still worship Hindu Gods in makeshift altars in their shops, buses and cars, to bring them good business and safety on the roads, often this became just an empty formality to satisfy the expectations of customers, rather than a real belief that business and safety matters are in God’s hands.
Obviously Nepali politics is one area where religion and God had not much a say for dozens of years, apart from unpublicized visits of politicians to gurus and “holy men” in the hope to ensure a personal political success.
The earthquake had mobilized some religious groups to once again unite in prayers and Pujas (rituals, often including fire-sacrifices of incense, fruits, ghee etc.). Yet that had also passed.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF LIVING IN A HOLY LAND
The Nepali nation is but living on a holy land, and it brings responsibility to include God in their lives. If they don’t do, they immediately face a down-pulling power, which we have seen recently in the return of Maoist-insurgence-style Madeshi uprising in the Terai. The Himalayas,according to Hindus, are home for Gods like Shiva, Parvati, Ganesh, and down in the Terai it is the birth-place of Buddha in Lumbini which is important for Buddhists. The hills are full of hundreds of Devi Temples dedicated to Durga Mata or Kali Mata, and holy places with caves, in which Buddhist legends like Milarepa, Marpa or Padmasambhava are having been meditated. Devgath is believed to be a meeting place of all Devas and Devis (concretely, it is told they arrive to take bath at 3 AM every day), and Pashupatinath is largely visited even by Hindus from India…
For comparison, another such holy land, for Jews, Christians and Muslims, is Israel’s Jerusalem. Inhabitants of Israel had already learned through history that abandoning their religions for materialism and “modernity”, never paid off. As far as religion is maintained, a certain social balance is maintained in holy places as well. Israelis, be it Jews or Muslims (Christians are a minority), are very serious about their religion. But as soon as the religion of the land stops to be taken seriously, the human masses become uncontrolled and aggression and selfish dominance outbalances ethical elements. Human beings need God and religion not only at a personal level, but also they need to include religious ethics at a country-governing level.
So how it is that finally Nepal can see its Constitution, even if all odds were against it for long?
THE TEEJ-CONSTITUTION OF NEPAL HAD BEEN BLESSED BY A NATIONAL FASTING
The secret of that miraculous day of promulgating the Constitution two days ago, in a surprisingly smooth voting, is not found in science. It is a secret which Western watchers cannot understand, until they stay in Nepal some time. The Constitution had become a sudden success because a huge majority of Nepal’s female inhabitants had been given a holiday from their duties and had been FASTING all day long! Nepal has around 80% of Hindus, and the Constitution’s voting had been finally pushed to be coinciding with the Teej Festival. One of the specialties of this beautiful festival is FASTING WITHOUT FOOD AND WATER, which is observed by women, usually to ensure peace and love in the family, with their husbands, and also for the whole land. Nepali women are usually given (by their often patriarchal families) a “holiday” to visit their mothers in their motherly home, called ‘Maiti Ghar‘, taking on their most beautiful red saris and jewellery,and enjoying each-others company in joyful dancing. Many are dancing all day, other till the night, again other manage to dance all night… The Teej is usually an interval of festivals, but its culmination is exactly that day when women fast and dance in joy, enjoying being freed from household tasks by their husbands. Exactly on that day became the Constitution accepted by the majority of the Parliament!
More about the Teej Festival:
THE MESSAGE OF TEEJ FOR THE GOVERNMENT AND COUNTRY
I cannot forget an experience of Teej many years ago, when I was cycling through a Terai village (inhabited by Pahadis) in a warm silent evening, and from each house the candle–light and incense had been blown to the street by the evening breeze,and women in beautiful glittery, but elegant attires resembling queens, walking happily in the streets… The usual tense family life with shouting wives, generators, noisy trucks had all slowed down, and it felt like heaven had landed on Nepal’s villages. The day felt very divine to me, and I did not understand that time the reason. “Just another festival”, would many Westerners think, at a superfluous look at the Nepali Calendar, filled with countless religious festival
Teej is a Festival of Respect to Femininity
Yet Teej is very special and important for a country and society, where the situation of women is traditionally so difficult, where women are misused by family members as servants for the male members, where menstruation is considered a sin and menstruating women separated from their families, where young girls are forced to hard work from small age while their brothers are allowed to only study. And let us not forget that Nepal has a growing statistics of rapes of women and girls as small 2 years old.
Women in Nepal’s society are in danger even after they get old and not attractive anymore: they can be very easily accused of witch-craft and tortured to death by the whole village… Women often work hard, carrying heavy-fire-wood, grass and even bricks, to sustain their families, while their husbands roam around on motorbikes. Women’s needs are not taken into account, thus until today even in rich families women are forced to wash themselves in the open, in clothes, in freezing water of hand-pumps and public taps, even when pregnant or menstruating…
Women are all year-long living a very difficult life in Nepal, thus Teej is a much-needed holiday for them from all that suffering. Once every year women can feel again as “mummy’s daughters” and enjoy their femininity without the danger of a male interaction (the permanent need to serve their fathers, brothers, father-in-laws, husbands and often even sons).
A country is prosperous and happy when its women are happy, respected and healthy. We could see this rule in the bright and happy day of Teej, which brought Nepal’s first democratic Constitution. Politicians should realize that the happiness of Nepal’s women is in direct connection with Nepal’s political situation. This is because Nepal is a country in the patronage of Durga Devi, Kali Devi and other forms of Divine Mother.
But until Nepal will be neglecting the terrible situation of rapes, sexual exploitation, violence against women by husbands and family members, witch-huntings and other harms connected to femininity, Nepal will not be able to see lasting peace and prosperity. promulgating a Consituation is just half-victory: the next and most difficult part is coming now, when it should be implemented as well.
But if Nepal will grant a Teej-like happiness and freedom to its female residents all-year long, the country will be succesful and peace will prevail, and democratic politics would smoothly overpower elements of aggression and separatist tensions.
The fasting of Teej was a blessing for the country
Another sweepingly positive effect of the Teej festival, apart from being a holiday of respecting femininity, was the all-day-long fasting without food and water, observed by the great majority of Hindu women all over the country. Fasting is a great sacrifice for a nation which uses “Khana khayo?” (Have you eaten?) as its main greeting phrase, and which does not start the working day without the morning meal of “dahl-bhat-tarkari” ever. Nepalis are quite a food-centered nation, even if their staple rice-lentils-vegetable meal would seem boringly uniform to most Westerners. Yet the rich choice of spices, fruits and fresh buffalo milk of the villages makes the diet of Nepalis nutritious and highly enjoyable, which is probably the reason that Nepali women and men are often overweight these days.
When a society where food is the main social bond and quite often the only joyful event of the day (in case of poorer families), is ready to sacrifice the enjoyment of food for some higher (religious) purpose, this cannot stay without effect. The all-nation fasting of wives and daughters in Nepal during the Teej had clearly a blessing effect on the whole land and nation, and finally even the long stuck Constitution could have been smoothly voted for and agreed upon. It is certainly not an accident that the two special days – the Teej fasting and promulgating Constitution – fell on the same day. Even tough critics and sceptics from Nepal became positive about the country’s future, after the long-awaited happy day of Nepal.
Millions of ladies all around Nepal had sacrificed the enjoyment from food and often even their health for peace, prosperity, love and happiness in their families and in the land this day. The power of fasting had “moved mountains” when Mahatma Gandhi used it as a means to alter political decisions. Recently an amazing case of inner strength had been displayed by a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jail, who had been fasting 60 days without any medical assistance (he refused) to free himself from prison. Finally, at a stage when he lost his consciousness, he had been freed.
If Nepal’s politicians could understand the hidden mechanism of religious sacrifice by fasting, and use it for ensuring peace and democracy in their country, Nepal could be turned again into a rich and happy land. While they should also be intelligent enough to compare the fortunate day of the “birth” of Constitution with those dark festivals which are sacrificing other living creatures for alleged “success”: the shameful goat tearing festival of Deupokhari, or the still not absolutely banned Gadhi Mai. For those who are watching only with logic, without any psychic abilities or so, it looks quite clear that cruel animal sacrifices had been never able to bring peace and prosperity for Nepal, neither at the level of politics, nor at the level of individuals. Such “black magic” (how to call it other way?) like offering the blood of other beings for one’s success or health, can bring only temporary success at a great price: a backlash of the negative powers.
A real religious sacrifice is targeting always one’s own body and soul, never the bodies of other beings, animals or, in extreme cases, human. That is why the Teej could have brought visible result. A real religious sacrifice had been done by Nepal’s women on the day of Teej, and this power of blessing was so strong that Nepali friends had been describing me even more bird-singing arriving to the cities, and the stopping of excruciating heavy post-monsoon rains for the day. Nature had reacted to the bright Teej day with joy.
But it would be a mistake to consider the battle against darkness won forever. The message of the Teej of the Constitution of 2015 should be a lesson for Nepalis for the coming years and decades, to bring them back to trusting their religious traditions and not consider materialist consumerism and dominance-centered politics as the only means to attain a peaceful and happy country.