Songs of happiness and change. Aspects of the oral tradition of Tīj - the major women’s festival in Nepal.


Pratibha Chelaparampath

  • Betreuung: Martin Gaenszle

This work studies and analyses the Tīj festival (as observed in Kathmandu 2008) and some of the songs I documented in the course of the three day women’s festival. The major methodology of the study has been participant observation and the documentation of oral performances. I describe and analyse the festival of Tīj and its songs principally through three different lenses, that of myself, the Poudyal family whom I accompanied during the festival, and thirdly the numerous interviews I conducted in the course of the festival.

I was able to record a series of songs, some sung from memory, some replayed from cassettes and some performed out of paper pamphlets by performing groups. Recorded cassettes to TV broadcastings, to You-tube postings; the spectrum of the mode of performances is relative broad. What information do they give us about the women of South Asia? Are these just ritually performed songs, or are they in any real sense expressing problems and contributing to a change of perspectives in the community?

The sukha songs, the happy songs of Tīj̄ have been ignored till now. But my study presents new and interesting data. We come across songs calling for social change, where the everyday problems faced by the women are presented in vivid colours. I have tried to demonstrate that these songs have their valid position in the social set-up of the Tīj festival.

Is the South Asian woman a languishing puppet of her traditions, or is she an independently thinking and speaking participant? The South Asian woman is often accused of being passive, lacking agency, and not being able to reflect on her own situation in the patriarchal set-up and the issues attached to the same. We often come across the question whether the South Asian woman has at all a possibility, a platform to voice her thoughts, to raise her questions, and to present her problems.

My attempt has been to appraise the magnitude and dimension of a women’s festival, in particular their folk songs, in order to understand the distinct attributes and potentials of folk feminism in South Asia. My interest has been to analyse the festival, and the songs for a better perception of certain aspects in the South Asian context, such as gender issues, kinship relationships, social attitudes, work and other activities, aesthetic concepts, educational notions etc. The study thus tries to throw light on the question how the women of South Asia represent themselves and in which ways a women’s festival and its oral texts are instrumental in the creation of a public sphere.