Dashain – The Greatest Festival of Nepal
Among the number of festivals of Nepal, Dashain is considered the greatest festival. It is also called as VIJAYA DASHAMI celebrating the victory of good over evil. Dashain is the longest festival of Nepal that is celebrated for 15 days. Despite of any caste or creed, any religion, whole nation is indulged in the ecstasy of celebrating Dashain together with peace and happiness. The government announces holidays which lets everyone gather and celebrate as an opportunity for reunion. This Dashain festival boosts up the unity of Nepalese resulting to a calm environment filled with joy and liveliness. Nepalese all over the world celebrate Dashain. Nepalese expatriates usually return to their motherland, Nepal to enjoy the specialty of Dashain.
When is Dashain celebrated?
Dashain begins from the bright lunar fortnight i.e. Shukla Paksha till the full moon day i.e. Poornima of Ashwin month of Hindu calendar. It falls on either September or October of Gregorian calendar. The 15-day long Dashain is celebrated by worshipping different gods and goddesses, specifically Goddess Durga, the deity of power.
Each day of Dashain has its own significance in Hindu religion. The first nine days known as “Navaratri” are celebrated worshipping the different incarnations of Goddess Durga, the tenth day called as “Vijaya Dashami” is celebrated for the victory of Goddess Durga over a demon named Mahisasur. The remaining five days till the full moon day are for the blessings and celebrations of the victory.
Why is Dashain celebrated?
Behind the celebration of Dashain, there is story according to Hindu mythology. A water buffalo demon named Mahisasura was giving troubles to the gods. He was a terror. After fighting for nine days, Goddess Durga achieved victory over Mahisasura on the tenth day. This is the reason of celebrating the tenth day as Vijaya Dashami as literal meaning of Vijaya means victory or triumph. Another legendary story is Lord Ram defeated King Ravana on this day of Dashami, successfully establishing the good over the bad.
Significance of different days of Dashain
The fifteen days of Dashain have their own meaning and importance. Every day has its own way of celebration. The first nine days of Dashain is called Navaratri meaning Nava: Nine and ratri: nights. During this Navaratri, nine forms of Goddess Durga namely Siddhidatri, Mahagauri, Kalratri, Katyayani, Skandamata, Kushmanda, Chandraghanta, Brahmacharini, and Shailiputri are worshipped.
Day 1: Ghatasthapana
The meaning of Ghatasthapana is from two words: “Ghata” meaning pot and “sthapana” meaning to establish. On the very first day of Dashain, people keep a small metal pot (kalash) filled with cow dung mixed with holy water. Barley and maize seeds are sown into the pot in order to produce “Jamara”. Then the Kalash is given to the priest who enchants mantras for the blessing of Goddess Durga. A specific time is given by the astrologer to keep the pot after worshipping. Then the Kalash is kept in a dark place of Dashain ghar (home), isolated from the sunlight where there is abundant sand and soil. The supreme member of the family worship the Kalash and Goddess Durga every morning until the day of Dashami. Only the male members of the family are allowed to do the worshipping and enter the Dashain ghar. After few days, the seeds will grow into beautiful yellow-green colored grass which is Jamara. Navaratri starts from Ghatasthapana.
Day 7: Fulpati
Fulpati is the seventh day of Dashain. The term Fulpati is broken into two words: “Ful” means flowers and “pati” means leaves. The collection of different flowers, banana stalks and leaves, sugar cane tied with red cloth along with Jamara is Fulpati. The royal Kalash along with the Jamara is brought to the Kathmandu Durbar Square from Gorkha Dashain ghar. This is the royal family tradition. Likewise, the general family also follows some rituals to bring their fulpati in their own dashain ghar (home). On this auspicious day, Nepalese army displays a grand parade in Tundikhel followed by a celebratory firing. The royal Kalash is carried by Brahmins on a beautifully decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella to the Basantapur palace of Kathmandu Durbar Square. But after the abolishment of the Royal family, the 200 year old tradition is changed. Now, the Jamara is taken to the residence of President from Tundikhel. It is believed in Hindu mythology, that entering of Phulpati to the Dashain ghar brings peace, prosperity and good health in the home.
Day 8: Maha Asthami
The eighth day of Dashain is Maha Asthami. On this day, the devotees visit the “Shakti peeths”. On this day, especially the eighth form of Goddess Durga – Mahagauri is worshipped. These are the temples dedicated to Goddess Durga Bhawani and Goddess Mahakali. Some of the temples in Kathmandu valley are Naxal Bhagwati, Maitidevi, Kalikasthan, Bhadrakali, Shobhabhagwati, Guheswori, Nardevi, Banglamukhi, Taleju Bhawani, Dakshinkali and Palanchowk Bhagwati. Similarly, the temples outside the Kathmandu valley like Kankalini devi temple in Bhaardaha of Saptari district, Chinnamasta temple in Saptari, Gadimai temple in Bariyapur of Bara district, Bita mai temple in Birgunj, Supa Deurali of Arghakhanchi, Manakamana temple of Gorkha, etc. are crowded with devotees. On this Asthami, a large number of animals like goats, hens, ducks, buffaloes, etc. are sacrificed in the form of offering to Goddess Durga Bhawani. The temples are drenched with the blood of sacrifices. 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed in the Dashain ghar, especially at midnight. Hence, this night is also called as “Kal Ratri” meaning the night of death. The meat is then cooked and distributed among the family members as Prasad. Every family do the sacrifice according to their financial capability.
Day 9: Maha Nawami
The ninth day of Dashain is Maha Nawami. The ninth form of Goddess Durga, Siddhidatri along with Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth are specially worshipped with the belief that of receiving the blessing of power which helps you to achieve anything that is even impossible. As mentioned in the Devipuran, it is believed that Lord Shiva also attained his power due to the blessing of Siddhidatri. On this auspicious day, all the machineries, vehicles, weapons, etc. are worshipped. According to myths, the demons took the form of animals to hide from Goddess Durga. Hence, these animals are sacrificed. There is a tradition of sacrificing a group of five animals i.e. hen, goat, sheep, duck and buffalo called as Panchabali meaning Pancha: Five and bali: sacrifice. The Taleju Bhawani temple of Kathmandu is opened on Maha Nawami only to all the people. Hundreds and thousands of devotees visit, queue up at this temple, pray and honor the Goddess.
Day 10: Vijaya Dashami
The most significant day of Dashain is Vijaya Dashami. On this tenth day, all the family and relatives gather and celebrate this day with full joy and happiness. The Jamara grown in the Kalash on the first day of Dashain is taken out from the Puja ghar. The elders and seniors of the family put tika on the forehead, keep Jamara in the ear and give blessings to their younger ones. Tika is made by mixing rice, yogurt and vermilion powder. The red tika denotes blood believing the bond of blood is stronger and keeps the family unified. Everyone wears new dresses and ornaments. A variety of delicacies is made; vegetarian and non-vegetarian, sweets and confectioneries. After putting tika, the elders give some money and gifts as "Dakshina". The family members staying far away from their home return to receive Tika on this day. Invitations are given to the relatives to attend the Tika receiving ceremony. A lavishing feat is organized for all the family members and relatives. This tradition of receiving Tika, blessings and gathering continues till the fifteenth day of Dashain i.e. Kojagrat Purnima so that the latecomers and relatives from far-off places are able to receive blessings and tika from the elders.
Day 15: Kojagrat Purnima
Today is the official end of Dashain. The literal meaning of Kojagrat is "who is awake". From the Pratipada till the Full moon day, the period of Dashain is called Durgapaksha. The soil collected on Ghatasthapana and the Jamara grown are ritually sailed in the river or lakes. The other importance of this day is to worship the Goddess of wealth, Goddess Laxmi. There is a belief that Goddess Laxmi visit the earth at midnight. So the devotees sing prayers, hymns overnight to please Goddess Laxmi. Those devotees who worship Goddess Laxmi with full dignity and pray whole night, are bestowed with the wealth as blessings of Goddess Laxmi.
Special Traditions during Dashain
Flying Kites: Kites are the integral component of Dashain celebration. Flying kites is an ancient tradition considering sending the messages to the God for adequate rain. Varieties of kites in different colors, shapes and sizes are seen flying even before starting Dashain. Children are mostly fond of this activity.
Sel rotis: Sel rotis are special kind of ring shaped roti or bread mainly prepared during Dashain. It is made or rice flour. Every houses makes these sel rotis but nowadays hotels and confectioneries shops are selling sel rotis. This helps save time and less effort.
Bamboo swing: It seems very awkward to celebrate Dashain without bamboo swing. The other name for this bamboo swing in local language is "Linge ping". Every Dashain, people make this bamboo swing in several places. Four long bamboo sticks, a thick rope made of wood and grass are used to construct this bamboo swing. It is constructed at least one or two days ahead of Ghatasthapana. People of all ages swing during Dashain as it is a belief that one must leave the feet from the earth and swing at least once. This bamboo swing is kept till Tihar.
Fairs: Fairs are organized in different parts of the country to celebrate Dashain. Ferris and wheels along with several kinds of rides are available for entertainment and fun. The markets are crowded as there are Sales with heavy discount offers are available in the shops for Dashain.
Author: Step On Himalaya
Date: 26th September, 2019