On Festival, Fasting, and Food

I think I started fasting for Gangaur and Teej festivals since age 13.  Usually by then a lot of girls my age were told to start fasting to get a "good husband".  While young girls or older women kept their fast by eating once a day or at least having fruits, I used to not even drink water until I saw the moon (for Teej puja).  I think I did that all the way until my undergrad years.

Today, I think that was crazy and unnecessary. I think if I could turn back time I would not have been so strict about fasting, just like I am not anymore.  Now, I celebrate a festival without worrying about my hunger because I do not agree with the concept of fasting for a certain festival.  After my wedding, in addition to Gangaur and Teej I had started fasting on Karwa Chauth as well.  Not surprisingly, this festival too is for the husband.

When my daughter grows up I will teach her why we celebrate Teej, why we say the stories that are recited when doing the Teej puja, why we look at the reflection of the 7 items in water when doing the puja, why we make saatu/pinda for Teej, and the why's of this festival. Today, at age 30 I don't know answers to these why's and I am pretty sure at age 55 my mom does not either. They did not ask questions. They were told to chant this, to offer that, to eat this, and to worship that - to get a good husband, or, after marriage their husband would get a long life.  Why is it a wife's responsibility to fast for and pray for husband's long life?  Why weren't the husbands told to do the same?  May be my daughter's generation will expect husbands to fast for their wives too.  It's just fair. Or perhaps they will not fast at all - and will actually just try to be a good husband and a good wife.

Fasting is not the focus of Teej and Gangaur.  Since childhood I used to be excited about cutting my sattu ("pinda paasna", as it is called). Because at the center of our Teej saatu was a 1 Rupee coin back in early 1990s and a 10 Baht coin after I moved to Thailand during my teens. Getting that free money on festivals was always exciting.  And as I grew up I enjoyed creative decoration on sattu.  I look forward to decorating my Teej sattu every year.  It's my creative outlet.

What is the importance of sattu for Teej, I was asked recently.  I don't know.  Some foods were associated with some festivals so that people look forward to making it for that particular festival.  So we make Til Papdi and Til Laddoo (sweets with sesame seeds) for Sankranti, Gujiya for Holi, Modak on Ganesh Chaturthi, Fal to offer in puja for Gangaur festival, or sattu for Teej.

What is the importance of turkey for Thanksgiving or why are gingerbread cookies made for Christmas?  There may be several theories but it's still mysterious why certain foods are synonymous to certain festivals.

The thing is, food brings people together, and that is one joy we all share no matter what our religion is or what festival we celebrate.
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1 comment:

  1. So true. .I agree that the festivals should not be just associated with fasting. And you are right the food associated with a fest brings back all the memories associated with it. I think since there were no camera or means to capture memories in old days.. This might have been propagated. I missed my mom made dhaniya prasad on janmashthmi. .had it after ages this time..happy to discover another like minded blogger..would love it if you stop by at my blog :)


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