The Arrival of Dashain Festival
With October already here, the rainy season clouds are transforming into flawless blue skies and autumn is in full bloom. The crisp air, warm weather, and colorful dragonflies are the sign of the approaching festive season that bring a different kind of good vibes. Mainly in Nepal, autumn is the festival season where religion, celebration, and rituals are great parts of lives. However, due to the pandemic people may have to scale down their ceremonies within their homes this year.
Generally, the festivals and celebrations that are observed with a social gathering such as Teej, Indra Jatra have been prohibited because of a steady rise in COVID-19 cases. So, what’s about the grand Dashain festival celebration of 2020?
Certainly, there will be no mass gathering, traveling, and visiting the relatives from one place to another in the Dashain festivals. People celebrate and enjoy festivals with family members staying inside the house. Since the travel permission will allow people to visit their relatives, and it is likely to spread COVID-19 in the communities.
Celebrating Dashain Safely during Pandemic
Despite the pandemic, people’s sentiments are strong when it comes to festivals. The celebrations cannot take place as the previous year. Rather, many approaches need to be considered to prevent novel Coronavirus. We can rejoice this grand festival by following the basic safety protocols recommended by the government as per the World Health Organization guidelines: wearing masks, using hand sanitizer or washing hands with soap, avoiding crowds, and maintaining a proper physical distance.
Why Dashain festival is celebrated?
Dashain signifies the victory over an evil spirited demon named “Mahisasur” who spread terror by attacking Trilok (the three worlds of heaven, earth, and hell). The story associated with Dashain speaks about the great battle that happens between an evil spirited demon Mahishasura and Goddess Durga. Mahishasura had been granted immortality by Lord Brahma and had been told that he could only be defeated by a woman. Finally, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva together created Goddess Durga, who finally killed Mahishasura.
The initial 9 days of the festival commemorate the constant war between bad and temperance. And after the long battle between vice and virtue for 9 days, goddess Durga eventually vanquished Mahisasusr on the tenth day.
In addition to the grand victory of Goddess Durga, Dashain also implies the triumph of God Ram over the devil Ravan as depicted in Ramayana. Thus, Dashain symbolizes the triumph of virtue over evil.
Dashain Festival in 2020
Each year, people celebrate Dashain festival with much fervor and enthusiasm across Nepal. This year, the main day of Dashain Festival – Ghatasthapana falls on 17 October, the seventh-day Fulpati will be happening on 23 October. Asthami is observed on 24 October and Nawami on 25 October and Dashami on 26 October respectively. Also, for 5 additional days till 30 October (Kojagrat Purnima), people continue to visit their elder house relatives to receive tika and blessings after the main day, also called Vijaya Dashami.
How we celebrate Dashain?
On the first day of Dashain, Ghatasthapana is celebrated by carrying out worship, and installing Ghada or kalash means ‘sanctified earthen pot’. A rectangular sandy area is made and the holy vessel is kept in the center. Around the vessel, a handful of barley seeds, which are supposed to be pure and blessed are sprinkled. The rectangular sandy area was kept away from sunlight in the prayer room for the next 9 days and water sprinkled on it on a daily basis.
On the 10th day, the elders offer the sowed and reaped sprouted seedlings (Jamara) along with Vermilion (Tika) as an auspicious gift of the goddess Nava Durga.
On the seventh day, Fulpati is observed. “Ful” means flower, and “pati” means leaves/plants, so this is the day in which an assortment of 9 plants and flowers are tied together and brought into the shrine room of every home.
As a part of the ritual, Fulpati is brought from Gorkha to the Dashain Ghar at Hanumandhoka.
The eight-day of Dashain symbolize Mahaashtami along with the Kalratri puja (Dark Night) performed on the same night. On this day, people sacrifice animals such as goats, buffaloes, and hens as an offering to Goddess Kali. And the meat is consumed as ‘Prasad’ (sacred food).
In the night, the Newar community organizes a family feast known as Kuchhi Voya (a unit of Kuchhi is used to measure beaten rice for the feast and put on a banana leaf for each family member; voya means feast).
Before commencing Kuchhi Voya, the head of a family offers a feast to nine Goddesses distributing one each to nine Goddesses on a banana leaf cut into small pieces.
What is fascinating about this entire custom is that the whole family get together and sit in a row on the floor with the eldest taking the place of honor at the top and the youngest at the bottom where they enjoy an innumerable number of dishes that are served on a banana leaf.
Maha Navami is celebrated on the ninth day of Dashain where people worship their daily using apparatus such as vehicles, equipment, and tools. Animal sacrifices and special offerings are executed at ´Dashainghar´ and ´Kots´ and at the temples of several goddesses. The gates of the Taleju Temple are only opened on this day to the devotees to pay homage.
Also, the people of the Newar community visit Bhimsen, a Hindu deity to pay their respects by making animal sacrifices on the occasion of Mahanawami.
The 10th day is called Vijaya Dashami from which the name Dashain originated. On this day all family members and relatives gather and receive tika (a mixture of red vermilion, yogurt, and rice) and jamara (germinated seeds of barley, wheat, corn, and rice) together with blessings from the elder members of the family.
Meanwhile, people from the Newar community celebrate Mwohni. A Mwohni tika also called Mwohni Sinha (a black tika), accompanied by the red tika together with jamara and kokha (white and red strips), is also offered and received. Newars take Mwohni as the festival where they worship the divine existence within their soul.
The fifteenth day of Dashain concluded with the marking of Kojagrat Purnima in which people worship to Mahalaxmi at their homes in the evening, and stay awake the entire night. There is a belief that goddess Mahalaxmi takes a tour around the world on the night of Kojagrat Purnima and bless the people who didn’t sleep all night.
The Best time for trekking
October and November are considered the ideal month to embark trekking in Nepal and the grand festival falls in those months.
What else can be a more interesting thing than witnessing the majestic mountain views in excellent weather while you trek and experience the vibrant festive vibes of affluent cultural tradition?
Traditions during the great festival of Dashain
Playing Swing (Ping)
The most significant thing that should not be missed during your visit to Nepal during Dashain festival is enjoying the Swing. The giant temporary swing made up of bamboo and coconut ropes are erected in almost all parts of the country for everyone, particularly children, to enjoy and are an essential part of the Dashain festival
There is a belief that one has to step on a swing and leave the ground at least once during Dashain. It is also said that taking a swing on the ping eradicate ill-feelings and replace it with rejuvenation
Card-playing is another way to spend time Dashain. The relatives, neighbors are invited to each other’s home and gather for playing card games and continue for days and nights.
Buying new clothes
There are common traditions and practices of purchasing new things, generally clothes during Dashain. We can see the markets fill with shoppers purchasing gifts, clothes, and every other thing needed to celebrate Dashain to the fullest.
Kites- flying is considered as an important way to convey messages of gratitude to the Rain God Indra, for showering abundant rain throughout the monsoon to ensure a good harvest season. During Dashain Festival, people fly kites making the sky full of colorful kites of various shapes and sizes.
Varieties of dishes
Throughout the festival there is much celebration, feast, consuming food, and enjoying with family and friends. People start to organize feasts from the 7th day until the 15th day of Dashain. They savor consuming every delicacy of meat and different varieties of dishes.
Malshree Dhun- Devotional Music
Music is an integral part of celebrations. Malshree Dhun instrumental melody of Nepal is played throughout this festive season as devotional music to Nawa Durga. The Dashain Dhun has got a marvelous melody that it raises people’s spirit and drives them into a festive mood.
Dashain is a time of great rejoicing, a celebration of togetherness that solidifies warm bonding between the family members which is the best part of this festival. Though we might not be celebrating the festivals this year with much fanfare and enthusiasm due to the pandemic, there will be festivals next year and the year after that, and we have a grand celebration.
Nepal Sanctuary Treks wish everyone a very safe and prosperous festive season!