Nestled within the soaring peaks and verdant valleys of the Himalayas, the nation of Nepal hosts a myriad of festivals that echo with the vibrant resonance of its culture and heritage. None are more significant or more eagerly anticipated than Dashain, the longest and most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar. It spans 15 days, uniting families across the country in a celebration of good’s triumph over evil.
Historical and Cultural Significance
Dashain, also known as Bijaya Dashami, is celebrated by Hindus and draws its origins from Hindu mythology. According to legend, the bloodthirsty demon Mahishasura caused great terror and suffering among humans and gods alike. Goddess Durga, revered as a divine feminine power, was created by the supreme trinity of Hindu gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – to vanquish the demon. After a fierce nine-day battle, Durga killed Mahishasura on the tenth day, symbolizing the victory of good over evil. This victory is the essence of Dashain.
Rituals and Customs
Dashain is rich in rituals that have been passed down generations. The festival starts with Ghatasthapana, the planting of barley seeds in a sand-filled pot. Over the next nine days, known as Navaratri, these seeds grow into yellow seedlings or ‘Jamara,’ symbolizing the goddess Durga.
On the seventh day, Phulpati is celebrated, where the royal Kalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, Jamara, and sugar cane tied with a red cloth is brought from Gorkha to Kathmandu by runners.
The eighth day, known as Asthami, involves the sacrifice of animals like goats, ducks, and chickens in honor of Goddess Durga. The following day, Nawami, also sees large-scale sacrifices, including in the Taleju Temple and military barracks across the country.
The tenth day, Bijaya Dashami, is the most important day. Elders put Tika (a mixture of red vermillion, rice, and curd) on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the coming year. Elders also give ‘Dakshina,’ a small amount of money, along with the Tika. The Tika lasts for five days until the full moon.
After the Tika, the festivities continue with music, feasting, flying kites, playing cards, and swings called ‘Ping.’
Artwork and Cultural Exhibits
During Dashain, homes and streets across Nepal are adorned with beautiful artwork, mainly in the form of intricate Rangoli designs, flower decorations, and garlands. The temples dedicated to Goddess Durga, like the Durga temples in Kathmandu, are spectacularly illuminated and decorated.
Getting to Nepal
Reaching Nepal to partake in Dashain involves international air travel to the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, the country’s capital. The airport is connected to major cities worldwide. From the airport, taxis, public buses, or hotel shuttles can take you to the city center.
If you plan your visit around Dashain, remember to book your flights and accommodations well in advance, as the festival sees a surge of both domestic and international tourists. Moreover, due to the widespread celebrations, public transportation within Nepal might not be as readily available during the festival days.
Experiencing Dashain gives you a deep insight into the spiritual fabric of Nepal and its people. Amid the grand feasts, vibrant festivities, and spiritual rituals, you get a palpable sense of the communal harmony and joyous spirit that characterizes this beautiful country.