Festivals in Nepal
During the month of Kartik
(late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge
in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest
and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar,
celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country.
The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight
ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out the kingdom of
Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped
with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal
sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess
for days in blood.
commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons.
One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram
after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons.
It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when
goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph
of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the
terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorised the earth in the guise
of a brutal water buffalo. The first nine days signify the nine
days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur.
The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five
days symbolise the celebration of the victory with the blessing
of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess
Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.
In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed
and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to the mother
goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune.
During this time the reunion of distant and nearby relatives occur
in every household. The market is filled with shoppers seeking new
clothing, gifts, luxuries and enormous supplies of temple offering
for the gods, as well as foodstuffs for the family feasting. Thousands
of sheep, goats, ducks, chicken and water buffalo are prepared for
the great slaughter. All types of organisations are closed for ten
to fifteen days. Labourers are almost impossible to find; from the
poor to the rich, all enjoy the festive mood. Anywhere you go the
aroma of 'Vijaya Dashami' is found.
The first nine days of Dashain are called Nawa
Ratri when tantric rites are conducted. In Nepal
the life force is embodied in the divine energy and power of the
female, depicted as goddess Durga in her many forms. All goddess
who emanated from goddess Durga are known as devis, each with different
aspects and powers. In most mother goddess temples the deity is
represented simply as a sacred Kalash, carved water jug or multiple
handed goddess holding murderous weapons. During these nine days
people pay their homage to the goddess. If she is properly worshiped
and pleased good fortunes are on the way and if angered through
neglect then misfortunes are around the corner. Mother goddess is
the source of life and everything.
The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana,
which literally means pot establishing. On this day the kalash,
(holy water vessel) symbolising goddess Durga often with her image
embossed on the side is placed in the prayer room. The kalash is
filled with holy water and covered with cowdung on to which seeds
are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the kalash
is put in the centre. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded
with grains. The ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain
auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular
moment the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to
bless the vessel with her presence.
The room where the kalash is established is called
'Dashain Ghar'. Generally
women are not allowed to enter the room where Dashain puja is being
carried out. A priest or a household man worships the kalash everyday
once in the morning and then in the evening. The kalash and the
sand are sprinkled with holy water everyday and it is shielded from
direct sunlight. By the tenth day, the seed will have grown to five
or six inches long yellow grass. The sacred yellow grass is called
'Jamara'. It is bestowed by the elders atop the heads of those younger
to them during the last five days when tika is put on. The jamara
is taken as a token of Goddess Durga as well as the elders blessing.
As days passes by regular rituals are observed
till the seventh day. The seventh day is called 'Fulpati'.
In fulpati, the royal kalash filled with holy
water, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth
is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped
and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the
fulpati parade. With this the Dashain feasting starts.
The eighth day is
called the Maha Asthami: The fervour of worship
and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox
Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house
through out the day. The night of the eighth day is called 'Kal
Ratri', the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are
sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues
till dawn. While the puja is being carried out great feasts are
held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat are
The ninth day is
called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled
with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes
are slaughtered to honour Durga the goddess of victory and might
and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom
and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand
there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep
with blood. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity
is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments
and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also
give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, aeroplanes, trucks
etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles
and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire
day is colourful.
tenth day is the Dashami: On this day we take tika
and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit
our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger
ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance
of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members
from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to
receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues
for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your
relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day.
In the last day people stay at home and rest. The full moon day
is also called 'Kojagrata' meaning 'who is awake'. The Hindu goddess
of wealth Laxmi is worshipped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is
given an invitation to visit each and everyone.
After Dashain everyone settles back
to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people
are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Dashain
thus is not only the longest festival but also the most anticipated
one among all the festivals of Nepal.
~ Article by Avigya Karki
topics viewed by visitors