Dashain Festival in Nepal
During the month of late September or early October, the Nepalese people treat as the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste who believes in Hinduism throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with numbers of pujas and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy goddess for days in blood.
The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorised the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo. The first nine days signify the nine days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolise the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great cheer, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the country as the divine mother goddess.
In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to the mother goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune. All types of organisations are closed for ten to fifteen days. Labourers are almost impossible to find (including trekking guide and porters). About 76% of total population of country enjoy it on the festive mood. Anywhere you go the whiff of ‘Vijaya Dashami’ can be found.
The first nine days of Dashain are called Nawa Ratri when tantric rites are conducted. In Nepal the life force is embodied in the divine energy and power of the female, depicted as goddess Durga in her many forms.
The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana, which literally means pot establishing. On this day the Kalash, (holy water vessel) symbolising goddess Durga often with her image marked on the side is placed in the prayer room. The Kalash is filled with holy water and covered with cow dung on to which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the Kalash is put in the center. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with different grains, mainly barley and maize. The ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular moment the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.
The room where the Kalash is established is called ‘Dashain Ghar’. Generally women are not allowed to enter the room where Dashain puja is being carried out. A priest or a household man worships the Kalash everyday once in the morning and then in the evening. The Kalash and the sand are sprinkled with holy water everyday and it is shielded from direct sunlight. By the tenth day, the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. The sacred yellow grass is called ‘Jamara’. It is bestowed by the elders atop the heads of those younger to them during the last five days when Tika is put on. The jamara is taken as a token of Goddess Durga as well as the elders blessing. As days passes by regular rituals are observed till the seventh day.
The seventh day is called ‘Fulpati’ (full of flowers and their leaf).
In fulpati, the Kkalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the fulpati parade. We enter this fulpati at Dashain Ghar. With this the Dashain feasting starts.
The eighth day is called the Maha Asthami:
The passion of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house through out the day. The night of the eighth day is called ‘Kal Ratri’, the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues till daylight. While the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat will be consumed.
The ninth day is called Maha Nawami:
Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered to honour Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, aeroplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire day is colourful.
The tenth day is the Vijaya Dashami:
On this day we take tika and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day. In the last day people stay at home and rest. The full moon day is also called ‘Kojagrata’ meaning ‘who is awake’. The Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshipped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is given an invitation to visit each and everyone.
After Dashain everyone settles back to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Dashain thus is not only the longest festival but also the most likely one among all the festivals of Nepal.