November 12, 2022
Dashain Festival is the major festival of our country, Nepal. It is also referred as Durga puja or Bijaya Dashami. Dashain is a very popular festival in both Nepal and India. It is a fifteen day long national festival of Nepal. It is the longest and most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese Hindu people all around the world.
Dashain is the longest and most anticipated festival in Nepal. People return from all parts of the world, as well as different parts of the country to celebrate together. During this festival period, all government offices, educational institutions and other offices remain closed throughout the celebration. Dashain falls in September or October, starting from bright lunar fortnight of the month of Ashwin or Kartik end ending on the full moon. The native Newars of the Kathmandu Valley celebrate Dashain or as they call it Mwohni or Durga Puja as the most important Newar festival of the calendar year. It is celebrated by Hindu and Newar people with only slight differences and interpretations, where each nine days NAVARATRI leading up to the 10th day called ‘Dashami’ carry special importance. The Goddess Durga and her various manifestations are especially worshipped by Hindu Newars throughout the temples of Kathmandu Valley.
Dashain symbolizes the victory of good over evil. In Hindu mythology, the demon Mahishasura had created terror in the devalok (the world where gods live) but eventually the Goddess Durga killed the demon. The first nine days of Dashain (NAVARATRI) symbolize the battle which took place between the various manifestations of Durga and Mahishasura. The tenth day is the day when Goddess Durga finally defeated and killed him. For some Hindus, this festival also symbolizes the victory of God Ram over Ravan as recounted in the Ramayana. And for the followers of Shaktism, it represents the victory of the Goddess Parvati.
Day 1: Ghatasthapana
Ghatasthapana (sowing Jamara) marks the beginning of Dashain. Literally, it means pacing a kalasha or pot, which symbolizes Goddess Durga. It falls on the first day of the festival. On this day, the kalasha is filled with holy water which is then covered with cow dung and sewn with barley seeds. Then the kalasha is put in the centre of a rectangular sand block. The remaining bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The priest then starts puja by asking Durga to bless the vessel with her presence. This ritual I performed at a certain auspicious time which is determined by the astrologers. The Goddess is believed to reside in the vessel during NAVARATRI. The room where all these rituals are performed is called Dashain Ghar. Traditionally, outsiders and women are not allowed to enter the room. A male family member worships the kalasha twice every day, once in the morning and then in the evening. As for recent years, coming of time has brought about women empowerment and the women are equally responsible for performing these rituals. The kalasha is kept away from the direct sunlight and holy water is offered to it every single day, so that the tenth day of the festival the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. This sacred grass is known as Jamara. These rituals will keep on continue until the seventh day.
Fulpati is a major celebration occurring on the seventh day of Dashain. Traditionally, on this day, the royal kailasha, banana stalks, Jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is brought by Brahmins from Gorkha, a three day walk, about 169 kilometers away from the capital city, Kathmandu. The Prime Minister of Nepal observes the ceremony in Tundikhel while the Fulpati parade is headed towards the Hanuman Dhoka royal palace. Many Government officials gather together in Tundikhel to witness the event.
Day 8: Maha Asthami
An eighth day celebration is called the ‘Maha Asthami’. In this auspicious day, buffaloes, goats, hens and ducks are sacrificed throughout the nation for the purpose of appeasing the blood-thirsty kali, the fiercest of Goddess Durga’s manifestations. Appropriately enough, the night of this day is called Kal Ratri (Black Night). The old palace in Basantapur Hanuman Dhoka also known as Dashain Ghar is active throughout the night with worships and sacrifices in almost every courtyard. On the midnight of the very day, a total of 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed in observance of the rites in Dashain Ghar. After the offering of the blood to Goddess Kali, the meat is taken home and cooked as Prasad or food blessed by divinity. Then, it is offered to household Gods in tiny leaf plates and after that it is distributed amongst the family. Eating this food is thought to be auspicious and while the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the house of common people.
Day 9: Maha Navami
The ninth day is called Mahanavami. This is the last day of NAVARATRI. On this day, the state offers the sacrifices of buffaloes under the gunfire salutes. This day is also known as the demon-hunting day because members of the defeated demon army try to save themselves by hiding in the bodies of animals and fowls. On Mahanavami, Vishvakarman, the god creation, is worshipped as it believed that all the things which help in making a living should be kept happy. Artisans, craftsmen, traders and mechanics worship and offer animal and fowl blood to their tools, equipments and vehicles. It is believed that worshipping the vehicles on this a day avoids accidents for the year as all the vehicles from bikes, cars to trucks are worshipped on this auspicious day. The Taleju Temple is opened only on this day of the year for the public. The temple is filled with devotees all day long as thousands of devotees go and pay respect to the goddess this day.
Day 10: Bijaya Dashami or Vijaya Dashami
The tenth day of the festival is the ‘Dashami’. On this day, a mixture of rice, yoghurt and vermilion is prepared by the women. This mixture is called Tika. The auspicious time for this proceeding is also determined by the astrologers. With the start of the auspicious time, elders put this tika and Jamara which is sown in the day of Ghatasthapana on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the upcoming years. The red also symbolizes the blood that ties the family together. Elders give small amount of money commonly known as ‘Dakshina’ to younger relatives at this time along with the blessings. This continues to be observed for five days till the full moon during which period families and relatives visit each other to exchange gifts and greetings. This ritual of taking tika from all the elder relatives (even the distant relatives) helps in the renewal of the community ties greatly. This is one reason why the festival is celebrated with so much vigor and enthusiasm. On the auspicious day, the head of the state offers tika to the general public and ministers.
Forms of celebration
As Dashain approaches, kite flying becomes more and more common as it have been a very important part of celebrating Dashain Festival In Nepal in the country. It is believed that flying kites is one way of reminding god not to send rain anymore. Playing card is another way of celebrating Dashain. While children are busy flying kites during Dashain, the older members of the family pass their time by getting together and playing cards with each for money and fun.
Buying and wearing new clothes is an important part of the festival. As many people living in the villages are below the poverty line, for them it is often the case that new clothes com only with Dashain. Clothes are the item which has the highest sale during the festival. Bamboo swings are constructed in many parts of the country as a way of celebration. Dashain swings are called ‘ping’ in Nepali. They present the best of local culture, tradition, community, spirit and fun. Fairs and celebrations are organized during the festival. Usually small fairs are organized in the villages with Ferris wheels for children and other entertainment for adults. However, in the city commercial fairs and celebrations are usually organized.
This is how Dashain is celebrated in a culturally and historically rich country, Nepal.