It’s time for the pleasant(est) weather in Nepal, the clear blue sky and sunny weather. The biggest festival of our country has arrived. The sky is dotted with colorful kites and the streets are filled with shoppers. The Dashain festival is here, everybody!
As children, we would sing, “दशैं आयो, खाउँला पिउँला, कहाँ बाट ल्याउँला, चोरी ल्याउँला!” And that was the happy song for everyone. Getting new clothes to wear, flying kites and celebrating the holidays with relatives is the Dashain definition for fun. So many memorable moments are created in this festive season.
We Nepalis are family oriented, peace and fun loving people and Dashain is one time where we engage in all three of our interests.School kids look forward to the long vacations. Playing on a ping (traditional bamboo swing), flying kites, playing cards, langur-burja (a game of dice), eating yummy dishes, reuniting with our families sum up our activities during the festival.
Dashain aka Vijaya Dashami is a festival that marks the victory of good over evil and utmost joy and exuberance. All Nepalis know what Dashain is and why it is celebrated. Nevertheless, we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of the Dashain festival in Nepal.
The Dashain festival lasts a fortnight while there are 5 most important days.
The beginning of Dashain is marked by Ghatasthapana, on the Ashwin Shukla Pratipada (the day after the New Moon on the Nepali month of Ashwin). Ghata is pot and sthapana is placement. A pot (kalasha) is filled with holy water which is then covered with cow dung and sewn with barley seeds. Then the pot is put in the center of a rectangular sand block. The remaining bed of sand is also seeded with grains. In the puja, Durga is worshiped and to bless the vessel with her presence. This ritual is performed at a certain auspicious time which is determined by the astrologers. The goddess is believed to reside in the vessel till the Dashami day. The pot is kept away from direct sunlight and holy water is offered to it every day so that by the tenth day of the festival the seed will have grown to five or six inches long greenish-yellow grass. This sacred grass is known as jamara. These rituals continue until the seventh day.
Fulpati occurs on the seventh day and is a major celebration. Traditionally, on this day, the royal kalasha, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is brought by Brahmins from Gorkha, a three-day walk, about 169 kilometers (105 mi) from the Kathmandu Valley. Hundreds of government officials gather together in the Tundikhel grounds in formal attire to witness the event. Previously, the King used to observe the ceremony in Tudikhel while the Fulpati parade was headed towards the Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace.Then there is a majestic display of the Nepalese Army along with a celebratory firing of weapons that continues for ten to fifteen minutes honoring Fulpati. The Fulpati is taken to the Hanuman Dhoka Royal palace by the time the occasion ends in Tudikhel, where a parade is held. After the overthrowing of the king, the two-century old tradition has changed and the holy offering of Fulpati goes to the residence of the President.
The eighth and another important day is the Maha Asthami. This day, the most fierce of Goddess Durga’s manifestations, the bloodthirsty Kali, is appeased by sacrificing buffaloes, goats, hens and ducks in temples throughout the nation. Blood, symbolic for its fertility, is offered to the Goddesses. The night of this day is called Kal Ratri (Black Night). Buffaloes are sacrificed in the courtyards of all the land revenue offices in the country. The Hanuman Dhoka is active throughout the night with worships and sacrifices in almost every courtyard. At midnight, in the Dashain Ghar, a total of 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed in observance of the rites. The meat is taken home and cooked as “prasad”, or food blessed by divinity.
On the ninth day, ceremonies and rituals reach the peak. Official military ritual sacrifices are held in one of the Hanuman Dhoka royal palaces, the Kot courtyard. 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. Vishvakarman, the god of creation, is worshiped. Artisans, craftsmen, traders, and mechanics worship and offer animal and fowl blood to their tools, equipment, and vehicles. Any weapons, machinery, and vehicles in the homes are cleaned and puja is done to purify them with sacrifices. The belief is that, in that way, the chances of anyone being hurt by them the following year is nullified.
The tenth day of the festival – Dashami is the most important day. Elders put tika (a mixture of rice, yogurt, and vermilion) and jamara 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 Dakshina(money), to younger relatives with blessings. This ritual continues for five days till the Purnima (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 helps in the renewal of the community ties greatly. This is one reason why the festival is celebrated with so much of vigor and enthusiasm.
The last day of the festival is the ‘Kojagrata’ Purnima. Kojagrata means ‘who is awake’. On this day Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, is worshiped as it believed that goddess Laxmi descends on earth and showers whoever is awake all night with wealth and prosperity. People enjoy all night by playing cards and having fun.
The Dashain festival is a very fun and happy time, but like everything else, it too has it’s own drawbacks. There are a lot of animal sacrifices made in the name of worshipping and appeasing the Gods and Goddesses. The celebrations are done lavishly causing the poorer families to take loans solely for the sake of celebrating the Dashain festival. As of October, 2016, 28,000 goats have been already sold in Kathmandu. Not all the animals sacrificed are used wisely and there tends to be a large amount of waste generated. A lot of people also engage in hard drinks and chaos is usually created with people getting drunk. Playing cards, too, makes people lose a lot of money in the gambling.
Therefore, recently, few families have opted to use coconuts covered in vermillion to use as sacrifice and use the reddened coconut water as blood offering instead of actually killing animals.
Apart from these few drawbacks, Dashain festival is a time when we Nepalis gather together as one, celebrate our family relationships and exchange happiness.
The NepalBuzz team wishes all our readers and well-wishers a very Happy Vijaya Dashami. Hope this Dashain festival fills your lives with more joy and successes. Stay safe and enjoy!
विजया दशमीको हार्दिक मंगलमय शुभकामना!