June 13, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Dashain, the most celebrated festival at the best season

The Nepal Weekly
October 17, 2023
Giving Tika with blesses

Dashain is a major Hindu religious festival in Nepal. It is also referred as Bada Dashain or Vijaya Dashami. This festival is also celebrated in some of the Indian states like Sikkim and West Bengal. It is also celebrated by Hindus of Nepal and elsewhere in the world. The festival is also referred as Nauratha, derived from the Sanskrit word for the same festival Navaratri which translates to Nine Nights dedicated to Goddess Durga or Bhagawati. 

It is the longest and the most auspicious festival celebrated according to the Lunar calendar. The season is neither hot nor cold in Nepal in the autumn and the big festival falls in such an enchanting environment.

In Nepal, Dashain is also known as the biggest festival in the country. Public holidays for a week starts from the seventh day to 12th day of the bright fortnight. All government offices, educational institutions, and other offices remain closed during the festival period. However, the full moon is an important day as a part of Dashain festival to conclude. Besides the first day the devotees visit temples of Durga Bhawani on 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th days to pray, worship and also to offer animal sacrifice. Notably, people with modern thoughts prefer the festival without animal sacrifice in name of the tradition.

The 10th day is an occasion for granting Tika by the senior most and other senior members of the family to other members and relatives. To celebrate and get united with family, relatives and friends, Dashain is an appropriate occasion. Thus, people return from all parts of the world, as well as different parts of the country, to celebrate together. 

For followers of Shaktism, it represents the victory of the goddess Durga Bhawani. In Hindu scripture, the demon Mahishasura had created terror in the Deva-lok (the world where gods live) but Durga Bhawani killed the devils also known as demons. The first nine days of Dashain symbolize the battle which took place between the different manifestations of Durga Bhawani and Mahishasura. The tenth day is the day when Durga Bhawani finally defeated him. For other Hindus, this festival symbolises the victory of Ram over Ravan as recounted in the Ramayana. It symbolises the victory of good over evil.

Ghatasthapana, the first day of the festival

Jamara is sown on the day of Ghatasthapna. The grass is grown in a dark room for nine days and received as a prasad on the tenth day.

Ghamasthapana marks the beginning of Dashain. Literally, it means placing a kalasha or a pot, which symbolizes goddess DurgaBhawani. Ghamasthapana falls on the first day of the festival. On this day the Kalash is filled with holy water and is then sewn with barley seeds. Then the Kalash is put in the center of a rectangular sand block. The remaining bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The priest then starts the puja by asking Durga 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 during Navaratri.

Phulpati

Phulpati is a major celebration occurring on the seventh day of Dashain. The word Phulpati is made up of two words:Phul means flower and paati means leaf.

Traditionally, on this day, the royal Kalash, banana stalks, jamara, and sugar cane tied with red cloth are brought by Magars from Gorkha, a three-day walk, about 169 kilometres (105 mi) away from the Kathmandu Valley. Hundreds of government officials gather together in the Tundikhel grounds in conventional formal dress to witness the event. The king used to observe the ceremony in Tundikhel while the Phulpati 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 Phulpati. The Phulpati is taken to the Hanumandhoka Royal Palace by the time the occasion ends in Tundikhel, where a parade is held.

Since 2008, when the royal family was overthrown, the two-century-old tradition is changed so that the holy offering of Phulpati goes to the residence of the president. The President has taken over the king’s social and religious roles after the end of the monarchy.

In various other cities and towns across Nepal and in India (with a significant Nepali population), a Phulpati procession is carried out. Flowers, fruits and holy symbols are tied in a red cloth, which is then covered with an auspicious red shawl and carried on a decorated wooden log across the town. The townspeople offer flower and fruits as the procession passes through their houses. The process is accompanied by Gurjuko paltan with traditional music.

Maha Ashtami

The eighth day is called Maha Asthami. This is the day when the most fierce of Goddess Durga’s manifestations, the bloodthirsty Kali, is appeased through the sacrifice of buffaloes, goats, hens, and ducks in temples throughout the nation. Blood, symbolic of its fertility, is offered to the Goddesses. Appropriately enough, the night of this day is called Kal Ratri (Black Night), after the form of Durga Bhawani worshiped on this day. . It is also the norm for buffaloes to be sacrificed in the courtyards of all the land revenue offices in the country on this day. The old palace in Kathmandu Durbar Square, as well as the presidential palace, is active throughout the night with worship and sacrifices in almost every courtyard.

On midnight of the very day of the Dashain, a total of 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed in observance of the rites. After the offering of the blood, the meat is taken home and cooked as “prasad”, or food blessed by divinity. This food is offered in tiny leaf plates to the household gods, then distributed amongst the family. Eating this food is thought to be auspicious. While the puja is being carried out, great feasts are held in the homes of common people. On this day the Newar People has an event called “Khadga Puja” where they do puja of their weapons. It is when they put on tika and get blessings from elders.

Maha Nawami

The ninth day of Dashain is called Maha Navami, “the great ninth day”. This is the last day of Navaratri. Ceremonies and rituals reach a peak on this day. On this day, official ritual sacrifices of the Nepal Armed Forces are held in one of the Hanumandhoka royal palaces, the Kot courtyard. On this occasion, the state offers the sacrifices of buffaloes as a feu de joie and 21-gun salute are fired in the background in the presence of the Army Staff. 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 Maha Navami, Durga Bhawani, the mother goddess Devi, is worshipped as it is believed that all the things which help us in making a living should be kept happy. Artisans, craftsmen, traders, and mechanics worship and offer animal and fowl blood to their tools, equipment, and vehicles. Moreover, since it is believed that worshipping the vehicles on this day avoids accidents for the year all vehicles from bikes, and cars to trucks are worshipped on this day.

The the gates of Taleju Temple at Hanumandhoka are opened to the general public on only this day of the year. Thousands of devotees go and pay respect to the goddess this day. The temple is filled with devotees all day long. People visit Taleju temples at Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and other towns in the Kathmandu Valley also.

Taleju Bhawani Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal
The Taleju Temple, Hanumandhoka

The Taleju temple in Hanumandhoka was built in 1564 by King Mahindra Malla. The first Taleju temple was built in Bhaktapur in the 14th century. The Taleju temple was modeled on the shape of Shree Yantra, a form of manadala or a geometric diagram with magical and tantric power.  

Bijaya Dahami, the day receive blessings

The tenth day of the festival is the ‘Bijaya Dashami’. On this day, a mixture of rice, yogurt and vermilion is prepared. This preparation is known as “tika”. Often Dashaintika time is different each year. Elders put this tika and jamara which is sown in the Ghatasthapana on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the coming years. Red also symbolizes the blood that ties the family and community together.

Elders give “Dakshina”, or a small amount of money, to younger relatives at this time along with the blessings as they visit. 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 vigour and enthusiasm.

Khadga Jatra

Khadga Jatra or Paayaa is a part of festival celebrated on the 10th Day of Dhashain in the evening in most of the localities in the Kathmandu core city and Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and other small towns. The authorized persons of the local Guthis carry the old weapons and take rounds in the locality. This is a tradition to commemorate the old tradition of storing of arms at different localities and take care by the communities to support the state’s system practiced long many years ago. 

Impersonating warrior deities with khadgas, the special swords of the deities, in their hands, many groups come out of their respective areas of Kathmandu Valley for the Paayaa on the day 10th day. Their bodies shake as they walk onto the streets, fueling the common belief that deities themselves enter the persons carrying the swords. They are followed by huge crowds with their worshipped khadgas in their hands and form their respective processions.  

Khadga Jatra concludes - DCnepal
Khadga Jatra

The Paya is regarded as a victory procession, celebrating the triumph of good over evil following the legend of the victory of Goddess Durga Bhawani over Mahishasura, the demon. It is carried out on the day of Bijaya Dashami as it is regarded that it was on the very day that the deities were able to conquer the evil.

Eakadashi, the 11th day to Purnaima, the 15th day

Most of the people continue to give tika to those who did not visit the senior relatives on the day of Dashami. It is even continued till the fifteenth day. That means some parts of the Nepal, the tika is only received on the day of Bijaya Dashami, in other parts of the country, people start visiting their extended family and relatives till Kojagrat Purnima, if not possible on the 10th day

Kojagrat Purnaima

The festival’s last day, which lies on the full moon day, is called Kojagrat Purnima. Here all Dhashin rituals and socialization conclude. On this day Goddess Laxmi who is believed to be the goddess of wealth is worshipped as it is believed that Goddess Laxmi descends on earth and showers whoever is awake all night with wealth and prosperity. People enjoy the night by playing cards and much more.

In celebrating the big festival, people of any economic status spend money on new dresses and lavish foods and drinks to enjoy with family, relatives and friends.

The well off people buy even new vehicles and residences on the occasion of the big festival. Thus, a wide and deep economic activities take place in the Bada Dashain festivities. (By R.P. Narayan)