Dashain in Nepal: A Celebration of Family, Friends, and Faith

Dashain, Nepal’s biggest and most important festival, is coming up on September 17th this year, and with it comes two weeks of celebration and feasting across the country. So, its the best time to know about the biggest festival-Dashain.

Dashain is the most important, biggest Hindu festival, and the longest running festival in Nepal as well as among Nepalese communities overseas. The most auspicious day to start a new venture is the dashain festival. The festival is celebrated during the ninth lunar month of Bikram Sambat, which corresponds to September or October according to the Julian and Gregorian calendars, and is celebrated for 10 days.

Dashain in Nepal 2022 will be celebrated from September 26 (Asoj 10)-October 5 (Asoj 19).

Dashain, Nepal’s biggest, most important festival, most celebrated festival is about to start in next few weeks. It’s celebrated over the course of two weeks dedicated to Durga Puja and her manifestications.

For Nepalese, Dashain is the most anticipated festival of the year. It is the time when most of the Nepalese living overseas, as well as in the different part of the country, come to their home to celebrate this festival of Goddess Durga together.

So, why Dashain is so important to Nepalese, and why it is a celebration of family, friends, and faith? What is the signifincance of Dashain, and how it is celebrated throughtout 2 weeks? These are the questions that we are going to answer in this blog post. Therefore, if you are interested in knowing about the celebration of Dashain in Nepal, read this blog post from top to bottom!

The Story Behind Dashain

Nepalese culture is largely based on religion and tradition. Since many Nepalese are Hindu, the festivals celebrated in Nepal are based on Hindu mythologies and sculptures. Therefore, there are also stories behind the celebration of Dashain festival.

Mainly there are two stories linked to Dashain and why it is celebrated today. The first one is the legend of Goddess Durga and Mahishasura.

According to Hindu sculptures, there was a fierce battle between Goddess Durga and the buffalo demon Mahishasura. Mahishasura was a devote of Lord Brahma who had won Brahma’s favour and wished for the boon of immortality. So, Brahma fulfilled his wish saying that no man or child would ever be able to kill him.

With the power of immortality, Mahishasur set the Devalok on war and devastation. He was using his power to creat havoc on the Earth. So, to put To put an end to his reign of destruction, Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu and their consorts created Goddess Durga from their collective powers.

Goddess Durga with ten arms and powers from all the major deities, descended on the Earth to kill Mahishasura. It took Goddess Durga ten days to defeat and kill buffalo demon Mahishasura. So, to mark the victory of good over evil, Dashain is celebrated for 10 days.

The second story of Dashain is linked to the Lord Ram and demon king Ravana. Dashain is said to be celebrated because of Lord Ram defeating demon king Ravana. Same as Goddess Durga descended on Earth to defeat Mahishasura, Lord Ram went to Lanka to retrieve Goddess Sita by defeating and killing Ravana.

Both of these stories behind the celebration of Dashain have a common meaning. The meaning of victory of good over evil. Therefore, Dashain is celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil.

For Nepalese, there are also other reasons behind the celebration of Dashain.

Significance Of Dashain

As we said earlier, Dashain commemorates the victory of goddess Durga over the buffalo demon Mahishasura. The festival of Dashain is one that is held to remember Lord Rama and his victory over Ravana and the victory of Goddess Durga over Mahishasura.

But there are also many other significances behind the celebration of Dashain in Nepal and other countries. For Hindu, Dashain symbolizes Hinduism. That’s why it is considered as the major festival in Hinduism.

It also signifies the importance of families living together. And thus people are advised to leave their works for a week to be with their family during this time. If someone is not able to go home for Dashain, then it’s customary for families across Nepal to send gifts like money or clothing items back home during this time.

Its Importance To Nepalese

The Dashain festival is one of the most important festivals for Nepalese people. Dashain is the celebration of family, friends, and faith. It is a festival when Nepal goes for the longest holiday in the year.

Families get together to celebrate Dashain by visiting relatives that they haven’t seen all year long. It is the time when the entire country plunges into a festival mood. They pay their respects to elders who are no longer with them. Nepalese children play games and offer sweets while they sing folk songs.

Adults visit temples during the day and at night. While visiting and meeting family, friends, and relatives, people enjoy traditional swings like Ping, fly kites, play cards, cook and eat different delicacies during this time.

ping in Nepal

Read In Detail: Why Dashain Is Important For Nepalese?

How Dashain Is Celebrated In Nepal?

Dashain is a very important festival in Nepal for Hindu and Buddhist which is traditionally celebrated for two weeks with prayers and offerings to Goddess Durga. Dashain is also a great festival of harvest when people reunite with family, friends, relatives, exchange gifts & blessings, and performs poojas in the temples.

In different part of the country, especially in the Terai region, Pandals are made for Dashain where people celerbate Dashain for two weeks with full joy and enthusiasm. People celebrate Dashain by fasting, by praying and making offerings to Goddess Durga on morning & evening, and so on. Different religious programs are organized like fairs, traditional dance programs like Jhijhiya during Dashain. And on the final day of Dashain people greet each other with HAPPY DASHAIN before returning to everyday life.

Major Days In The Celebration Of Dashain

The festival falls in September or October, starting from the Shukla Paksha (bright lunar night) of the month of Ashwin and ending on the (Purnima, the full moon. Among the fifteen days on which it is celebrated, the most important days are the first, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and fifteenth.

Day 1: Ghatsthapana

Ghaṭasthāpanā is the first day of Dashain that marks the beginning of Dashain. Literally, it means placing a kalasha or a pot, which symbolizes goddess Durga. On this day the Kalash (pot) 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.

The Kalash 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: Phulpati Saptami

Phulpati is a major celebration occurring on the seventh day of Dashain. Traditionally, on this day, the royal Kalash, banana stalks, jamara, and sugar cane tied with red cloth is 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.

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 monarchy.

Day 8: Maha Asthami

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 for its fertility, is offered to the Goddesses. Appropriately enough, the night of this day is called Kal Ratri (Black Night) as a mark of the ceremonial practice of slaughtering 54 goats and 54 buffaloes as the clock strikes midnight.

Day 9: Navami

The ninth day of Dashain is called Mahanavami, “the great ninth day”. This is the last day of Navaratri. Ceremonies and rituals reach a peak on this day. 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, durga, the mother goddess Devi, is worshipped as it 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 the vehicles from bikes, cars to trucks are worshipped on this day.

The Taleju Temple gates 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.

Day 10: Vijaya Dashami

The tenth day of the festival is the ‘Vijayadashami’. On this day, a mixture of rice, yogurt and vermilion is prepared. This preparation is known as “tika”. Often Dashain tika time is different every 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 upcoming years.

IMG Credit: Adobe Stock

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 vigour and enthusiasm.

Day 15: Kojagrat Purnima

The last day of the festival which lies on the full moon day is called ‘Kojagrat’ Purnima. The literal meaning of Kojagrat is ‘who is awake’. 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.

Elder celebrating Dashain festival by putting tika on a child. Animal sacrifices are often the norms during this time, as the festival commemorates the bloody battles between the “divine” and “demonic” powers. The proponents of animal killing interpret that this sacrificial act as the symbolic sacrifice of our animal qualities, but those who are opposed to animal sacrifice stress that the sacrificial act is nothing but an excuse to fulfill the appetite for food/meat.

Final Thoughts: Dashain In Nepal

For Hindus Dashain is a major festival that celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura. The event lasts for 10 days. Food is shared with friends and family, as well as prayers to Lakshmi on full moon day. Though Dashain falls during the cold season, it’s time to think warm thoughts with this extended celebration. People take care of themselves by staying warm, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting enough rest. They also enjoy being able to spend more time with their loved ones.

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