Dashain (Nepali: दशैं Daśãi, also Baḍādaśãi बडादशैं or Bijayā Daśamī Nepali: बिजया दशमी) is the 15-day-long national festival of Nepal.
It is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese people throughout the globe. It is not only the longest festival of the country but is also the one which is most anticipated. The festival falls in September or October, starting from the shukla paksha (bright lunar fortnight) of the month of Ashvin and ending on purnima, the full moon. It is celebrated for 15 days; the most important days are the first, seventh, eighth, ninth and the tenth.
|Observed by||Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal|
|Observances||Prayers, Religious rituals, animal sacrifices|
|Begins||Ashvin shukla prathama|
Throughout the country Shakti is worshiped in all her manifestations. This festival is also known for its emphasis on the family gatherings, as well as on a renewal of community ties. People return from all parts of the world, as well as different parts of the country, to celebrate together. All government offices, educational institutions and other offices remain closed during the festival period.
Dashain symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
First Newari Metal Band “The Lakhey” Playing Malshree Dhun (Dashain Music)
For followers of Shaktism, it represents the victory of the goddess, Shakti. In Hindu mythology, the demon Mahishasura had created terror in the devaloka (the world of gods) but Durga killed the demon. The first nine days of Dashain symbolizes the battle which took place between the different manifestations of Durga and Mahishasura. The tenth day is the day when Durga finally defeated him. For other Hindus, this festival symbolizes the victory of Rama over Ravana as recounted in the Ramayana.
Buddhists Nepal celebrate Dashain to commemorate Ashoka’s adoption of ahimsa and Buddhism.
Among the Newar people of the Kathmandu Valley, Mohani is celebrated instead of Dashain, with slight differences in rituals and significance.
Day 1: Ghatasthapana
Ghaṭasthāpanā (घटस्थापना “sowing Jamara“) marks the beginning of Dashain. Literally, it means placing a kalasha or pot, which symbolizes Durga. Ghaṭasthāpanā falls on the first day of the festival. On this day the kalasha is filled with holy water which is then covered with cow dung and sewn with barley seeds. Then the kalasha 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 navratri.
The room where all this is done is known as the Dasain Ghar. Traditionally, outsiders and women are not allowed to enter it. A male family member worships the kalasha twice every day, once in the morning and then in the evening. But the coming of time has brought about women empowerment and the woman now are equally responsible for doing these familial rituals. The kalasha is kept away from direct sunlight and holy water is offered to it every day, so that by the tenth day of the festival the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. This sacred grass is known as jamara. These rituals continue until the seventh day.
Day 7: Fulpati
Fulpati is a major celebration occurring on the seventh day of Dasain.
Traditionally, on this day, the royal kalasha, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is brought by Brahmins 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 observes the ceremony in Tundikhel while the fulpati parade is 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 Fulpati. The Fulpati is taken to the Hanuman Dhoka 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 fulpati goes to the residence of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has taken over the king’s social and religious roles after the fall of the royal government.
Day 8: Maha Asthami
An eighth day is called the ‘Maha Asthami’. This is the day when the most demonic of Goddess Durga’s manifestations, the blood-thirsty Kali, is appeased through the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of buffaloes, goats, pigeons and ducks in temples throughout the nation. Blood, symbolic for its fertility, is offered to the Goddesses. Appropriately enough, the night of this day is called Kal Ratri (Black Night). 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 Basantapur Hanuman Dhoka, is active throughout the night with worships and sacrifices in almost every courtyard. On the midnight of the very day the Dasain Ghar, 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.
The ninth day is called Mahanavami, “the great ninth day”. This is the last day of Navarati. Ceremonies and rituals reach the peak on this day. On this day, official military ritual sacrifices are held in one of the Hanuman Dhoka royal palaces, the Kot courtyard. On this occasion, the state offers the sacrifices of buffaloes under the gunfire salutes. 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 Mahanavami, Vishvakarman, the god of creation, is worshiped as it believed that all the things which help is 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 the vehicles from bikes, cars to trucks are worshiped on this day.
The Taleju Temple gates are opened for 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.
Day 10: Bijaya Dashami or Vijaya Dashami
The tenth day of the festival is the ‘Dashami’. On this day, a mixture of rice, yogurt and vermilion is prepared by the women. This preparation is known as “tika”. Elders put this tika and jamara which is sewn in the ghatasthapana on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the upcoming years. The red also symbolizes the blood that ties the family together. Elders give “Dakshina”, or a small amount of money, to younger relatives at this time along with the blessings. 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 of vigor and enthusiasm.
Before the collapse of the monarchy system in Nepal, thousands of people ranging from the ministers, diplomats and general public used to gather in the old royal palace to take the tika and blessing from the king who is considered to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However after the collapse of the monarchy system the president of the country who is considered the head of the state has been continuing the trend by offering the tika to the general public and ministers.
The last day of the festival which lies on the full moon day is called ‘Kojagrata’ Purnima. The literal meaning of Kojagrata is ‘who is awake’. On this day Goddess Laxmi who is believed to be the goddess of wealth is worshiped as it believed that goddess Laxmi descends on earth and showers whoever is awake all night with wealth and prosperity. People enjoy over the night by playing cards and many more.
Animal sacrifices are often the norms during this time, as the festival commemorates the mythical bloody battles between the “divine” and “demonic” powers. The proponents of animal sacrifice interpret that this sacrificial act as the symbolic sacrifice of our animal qualities, but those who are compassionate to the sacrificed victims think otherwise stressing that the sacrificial act is nothing but an excuse to fulfill the appetite for food/meat.