The month of Ashwin always brings a bright big smile to the faces of Nepalese people. With moderation in temperature, Ashwin introduces one of the most famous and celebrated festival of Hindus known as Dashain or Bijaya Dashami which is a fifteen day long national festival of Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma) and Indian hill states of Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling district. Schools, government and private offices and organization and every NGOs are closed during this festival. Some people from abroad return to their country to enjoy this joyful festival season. The festival starts from the Shukla Paksha (bright lunar fortnight) of the month of Ashwin and ending in Purnima, the full moon.
Dashain epitomizes the triumph of good over evil. For the Shaktism, in Hindu Mythology, the demon from underworld, Mahishasura, had created unhostile environment in the Devaloka, where gods live. After prayers from god, the goddess Parvati (wife of Shiva), incarnates as Durga who then kills the demon and free Devaloka and all the other gods. The first nine days of Dashain symbolizes between the army of Durga and gods and the demon army of Mahishasura. On the tenth day, Durga finally defeated him. For other Hindus, this festival epitomizes the victory of Ram over Ravaan as written in the Hindu myth Ramayana.
Not all the days are equally celebrated. The first, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth days are the most worthwhile. The first nine days is known as Nawa Ratri and during these days people worship and pray to the goddess. It is said that if she is properly worshipped, good fortune and wealth will come to the family and misfortunes will be dodged.
The first day of Dashain is known as Ghatasthapana which signals the starting of the Dashain. Ghatasthapana literally means establishing a Kalash (holy water vessel or pot) which symbolizes Durga. On this day Kalash is filled with holy water which is then covered with cow dung and sewn with barley seeds. The Kalash is put in the center of a sand box and the sand box is seeded with grains which will be grown into “Jamara”. Then the “pujari” (priest) starts the puja (holy rituals) by asking Durga to bless the Kalash with her presence. The puja is done according to certain astrological time. This all takes place is a place known as Puja Ghar. A male family member (usually the head of the family) worships the Kalash twice every day. The Kalash is kept away from the sunlight and holy water is offered to it every day. This continues for seven days.
The seventh day is known as “Fulpati” which is one the major celebration day in Dashain. Traditionally, on this day, the royal Kailasha, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is brought by Brahmins from Gorkha to Kathamandu Valley. Before the monarch was overthrown, King and his family along with hundreds of officials gathered at Tudikhel to observe the ceremony. A parade known as Fulpati parade was organized where Nepalese army fires celebratory weapons to honor the Fulpati. The Fulpati is taken to Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace by the time the occasion ends in Tudhikhel. Now-a-days, the residence President of Nepal has the ritual rights of that of the King.
Maha Ashtami is the eighth day of Dashain. This is known as the day when the most fierce of Goddesss Durga’s manifestation, Kali, appeared from the sacrifice of the animals like buffaloes, hens, ducks and goats. Blood, symbolic to its fertility, is offered to the Goddess. Almost every household sacrifices animals in the name of Kali. Many Hindu yogis will be fasting this day. The eighth day is also known as “Kal Ratri”, the dark night. The sacrifices can take place till dawn. Feasts are held in most of the homes of common people where meat from the sacrificed animals are consumed as “prasad” for better health.
The ninth day is known as Nawami “the great ninth day”. This is the last day of Navaratri. Temples of Goddess Durga and Kali are filled with people till dawn. Sacrifices of specially buffaloes are taken place. In this day, large numbers of buffaloes are sacrificed for her victory and in the name of her blessing. Nepalese military army band plays harmonious tunes, fires weaponry and officers are beautifully dressed with shining medals. After the slaughter is finished, the courtyard is ankle deep with the blood of animals. Also, on this day the God Viswo Karma is worshiped. He is the lord of all the machinery and instruments. In the early morning, people clean and wash their machinery, vehicles and instruments properly which we use and make our living out of. Blood of the sacrificed animal is poured on the instruments and prayers and pujas are done for the blessing of Durga. The worshiped machineries and vehicles are not used on this day. The whole day is filled with colors.
The tenth day is known to be Dashami. This is the last one and the most important day of Dashain and on this day Nepalese people take “Tika” (special mixture of yogurt, rice and vermillion powder) from elders and ask for their blessings.
People first receive Tika from the head of the family and then, visit their relatives and receive Tika and blessing from their hands. People greet one another by saying “Happy Bijaya Dashami”. One of the perks of Dashain is that in this day when close and distant relatives gather together and enjoy each other’s company. This function continues for four days. The fifth day after Dashami or the fifteenth of Dashain is known as “Kojagrata” which is on the first Purnima (full moon day) which means “who is awake”. The Hindu goddess of wealth, Laxmi, is worshipped and people pray the goddess to visit their home for prosperity.
The celebration of this marvelous festival doesn’t limit itself with pujas and rituals. Before the month of Dashain, we would be able to see colorful kites flying on the sky. We could hear children shouting “Chaanga Chait” and they running on the street after kites and strings. We can also see tall swings made up of bamboo created and installed in open areas. There is a myth which is widely popular which states that one should leave the ground at least once in Dashain so that he/she could leave his/her sins on the ground and make a path to heaven. Thus, swings are widely popular regardless of age. Playing cards is another way of celebrating Dashain. “Langur Burja” is another gambling game but it is really frowned upon. Buying of new clothes is an important part of this festival. We could see huge crowds on most of the shops which on this occasion offers variety of prizes and discounts. This makes it more enjoyable.