Dashain


This is the occasion for the family reunion; a reason for someone to return home, if he or she has been away from home for a while. Government offices and schools remain closed throughout the country and people of all classes and caste celebrate the festival with equal zeal and interest.

This is the occasion for the family reunion; a reason for someone to return home, if he or she has been away from home for a while. Government offices and schools remain closed throughout the country and people of all classes and caste celebrate the festival with equal zeal and interest. Everyone in the family gets new clothes and chickens, goats or buffaloes are killed for the feast, no matter one needs to take out loans for. Villagers also make swings with bamboo and ropes. Everyone will be in joyous mood.

The festival lasts for 15 days but the most important days are the 1st, 7th, 8th, 9th and the 10th day. The first day of the festival, which falls on the first day of the bright lunar fortnight of the month Ashwin is called Ghatasthapana-which means the " installing of a holy water vessel" in the prayer room. The holy water vessel, known as "Kalash" is installed on the bed of sand and soil. The sand bed is also seeded with grains like wheat, barley, paddy etc. The senior most male of the family performs ritual and chants prayers to Goddess Durga and waters the seeds for 9 days. The seeds germinate to yellow sprouts of about 6 inches by the 10th day. The sacred yellow grass-which is called "jamara" and the blessed red color paste-known as 'tika' are bestowed by the senior members of the families to the juniors on the 10th day of the festival.

Installation of the holy vessel and germination of "jamara" for the Royal family is still done in the ancestral palace of Gorkha which lies more than 100 miles west of Kathmandu. On the 7th day of the festival, which is called "Phoolpatee", the Royal Kalash filled with sacred water, together with 'jamara', banana stalks, sugar cane etc wrapped up with red cloth is carried by the priests of the Royal ancestral palace of Gorkha on a decorated palanquin shaded by gold-tipped and embroidered canopy, led by a military platoon of the royal priest. The carriers of Jamara walk for 3 days from Gorkha to Kathmandu. The palace and government officials, attired in formal dresses line up in the street to welcome the procession bearing the "jamara'. There will be ceremonies with artillery fires in Tudhikhel and formerly the king would attend the ceremony and now it's the President as the monarchy no longer exists in the country.

The eighth day is called the 'Maha Asthami'. Today, Goddess Durga and Kali are appeased with animal bloods. Animal sacrifices are made almost in every household and temples. There are only 5 kinds of animals considered eligible for sacrifices; goats, buffaloes, pigs, chicken and ducks. The animals must be male and un-castrated to be accepted by the goddess. There will be tantric worships and prayers.

The 9th day is called "Maha Nawami". Today, people worships the tools and machineries they use in everyday life for their job. It's common to see people worshipping their motor vehicles. Workers of the factories will worship their machines. Animal sacrifices are made for the machines and tools as well. Those who are against animal sacrifice will chop the squash or break open the coconut. People worship Lord Bishwakarma-the God of the Workers! Taleju Temple at Durbar Square which remains closed throughout the year is opened for public visit today. The military men of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace make buffalo sacrifices to appease Goddess Durga. Foreign visitors are allowed to enter the palace and witness the rituals inside. Military bands play war tunes and guns are fired. By the time the ritual of the day is over, there will be a pool of blood in the palace courtyard. Those who are not used to seeing animal bloods are advised not to attend the ceremony.

The 10th day is called "Viajaya Dashami". This is the day Goddess Durga got victory over Demons. This is also the day Lord Rama, blessed by Goddess Durga defeated the demon King Ravana of Lanka. This day represents the day of victory of good over bad. Today, the seniors of the family bestow 'jamara' and 'tika" to the juniors in the family. People also will visit their parent in-laws, uncles and aunts and other senior relatives. Presidents palace will be open for public and government officials so that they can receive 'tika' and 'jamara' from the President', a tradition of the palace still followed, although the monarchy no longer exists. The tradition of  receiving 'tika' and 'jamara' continues till the 15th day as people traveling from far away may not be able to pay visit to all the relatives in a single day.  The festival concludes on the 15th day, called Poornima, when the remaining jamara and holy vessel is disposed in the river.

There will be a lot of feasting and drinking. People entertain by swinging and playing cards! Sometime, a drama of the Goddess Durga fighting demons will be staged! Family members which are away from home are much missed during Dashain Festival.

More in this category: Gai Jatra (Cow Festival) »
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