Every year, during the Teej celebration, thousands of women put on their finest attire and gather at temples throughout the country to dance, sing, and worship.  This celebration is in honor of husbands, and is dedicated to the goddess Parvati, wife of Shiva.  On this day, married women celebrate their husbands, widows celebrate those who have passed, and unmarried women pray to find good husbands.

Like all good holidays, this one involves plenty of food.  On the first day of the festival, there is a great feast to prepare the women for their day of dancing, worship, and ritual fasting.  The women pictured above are all fasting for the second day of Teej, in order to show their devotion.  As we wandered through the beautiful temple grounds, we saw three different women being carried away on stretchers, presumably from the combination of fasting and the hot weather.  Thankfully, after all of the dancing and singing is finished, there is another feast to celebrate the women’s devotion to their husbands, as well as the goddess.

Gathered along the streets were many Sadhus, or holy men, who accept offerings from people in exchange for a blessing. Many women waiting in the entrance lines to the temple stopped to visit the Sadhus, who often anointed them with painted markings.

In addition to its traditional meaning, the Teej festival’s modern interpretation has come to include women’s empowerment, including education on reproductive health and the female body.

Standing in stark contrast to the bright dresses and festive atmosphere, just twenty or so yards away burned traditional funeral pyres along the river. A clear reminder of life’s transiency.