Nepal’s most significant Hindu festival, Dashain, generally falls in September or October. Dashain observe fifteen days long celebration with several tradition. The 10th day of the dashain festival is the primary event of the Dashain, also popular as ‘Vijaya Dashain’.
This ritual involved contains application of a red paste made from sindoor, rice and yogurt on each person’s forehead as a sign of blessing and protection from evil forces with ‘Jamara’. Another notable tradition observed is animal offering to lord Durga on Asthami, the eight day of the Dashain festival.
Undoubtedly, Dashain is a significant festival for Nepali citizens, and the country goes on a long holiday. Engulfed in a festive mood, people return back to there respective village for the family re-union, as the festival indicates entirely a family time and festive mood.
While people from diverse cultural backgrounds celebrate this annual holiday in ways unique to them; where there are many things in common — including eating, drinking, and having a good time. The everyday activities associated with Dashain include swinging and kite flying as well as playing cards.
Nepali diasporas and other people outside of Nepal who speak Nepali also celebrate the festival with equal enthusiasm. All group of ethnicity and religion can enjoy the festival!
The religious background of the Dashain festival
The Dashain festival originated in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal during the 4th century BC.
Dashain’s celebrations roots on the religious tradition. Behind the spiritual aspect, there are two myths. As a result of the victory of good over evil by Goddess Durga over Mahisasur, Dashain represents victory over sin.
Another example is the most incredible story of Ramayana, where Bhagavan Ram (as an avatar of Vishnu) ended up victorious over Ravan, the evil demon king of Lanka. With goddess Durga’s blessing, this victory was possible. In this sense, Dashain is a symbol of the triumph of virtue over evil.
Traditionally, Dashain refers to the 10th day. It is customary to set holy pots, present sacred flowers, and play on the swings during the Dasain. Throughout Nepal and India, the goddess Durga is worshipped, and animals are sacrificed to her.
It lasts fifteen days, and the most memorable days are the first, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth. The ninth night of the Lunar calendar is called the “Night of Dashain”. Historically, the tenth day was known as “the day of victory.”
In general, the public holidays last for seven days. During the holiday season, all government offices, educational institutions, and other departments will be closed.
Dashain festival enjoyed in individual days
Ghatasthapana – The First Day
Dashain begins on Ghatasthapana, the first day of Bijaya Dashami. Traditionally, the day starts with the construction of a pot or vessel called Ghada (Kalash).
Dashain officially begins when we sow Jamara (Sacred yellow grass).
What are the steps involved in sowing Jamara? Symbolic of the Goddess Durga, the Kalash signifies power and protection. Kalash is located on a sandy rectangle where pure and clean water is present. On the Kalash, cow dung is usually piled up on the centre and sewed barley; corn seeds are placed there.
In Puja/Dashain Ghar, a place of worship in the home, all activities occur. Daily watering is required for the rectangular area of sandy soil that is kept away from direct sunlight.
Kalash is usually worshipped twice a day by the male head of the family i,e., in the early morning and before settling for dinner.
A seven-day process is necessary to complete it. After a week or so, we will be able to see the yellowish ‘Jamarra’ grass that has grown long, ready to be included as a part of Dashain puja.
Fulpati – The Seventh Day
A Fulpati is a Seventh-day celebration. It is customary for people to start cleaning and decorating their houses upon the arrival of Fulpati. Fulpati means flower leaves since Ful means flower and Pati means leaves.
Brahmin priests tripe the royal Kalash, banana stalks, jamara, and sugarcane tied in red clothes to Kathmandu on this day.
There is also an official parade in Tudhikhel(Kathmandu) that senior government officials attend. The Nepalese Army organizes a march to welcome Phulpati on its arrival from Gorkha.
An emblem of Phulpati’s honour is the Army firing weapon during a century-long tradition. A phulpati then proceeds to Hanuman Dhoka following the ceremony at Tudhikhel.
Maha Ashtami – The Eighth Day
Also known as Maha Ashtami, the eighth day of Dashain. Devotees venerate both Durga and Kali on this day. Kali, the fierce manifestation of Goddess Durga, appears to enjoy animal sacrifices including buffaloes, chickens, ducks, and goats in the following days. In the worship of the Goddess, devotees offered blood as a symbol of fertility.
Traditionally, the eighth day referrs to as Kal Ratri (night). The sacrificed offerings from the previous day add up to the offerings to Goddes Kali, which then taken as a prasad throughout the 15-day long festival.
Maha Navami – The Ninth Day
It is the day just before Tika, also known as Vijaya Dashami, which marks the most important day of the Dashain festival in Nepal. Also referred to as Maha Navami, the 9th day is the last day of Navaratri.
Devotees are flocking to Kali and Durga’s temples to worship their favourite Goddess. On Maha Navaratri each year, the God of Creation Viswakarma is glorified in all of his forms (like Buses, Cars, Bikes, Cycles, including household items like Knives, Axes, Khukuris).
Read Also: Dashain Ashirwad and Mantra
Bijaya Dashami – The Tenth Day
The festival of Vijaya Dashami is Nepal’s most auspicious festival and the tenth day of Dashain. An elder, usually the parent, prepares Tika in houses (a combination of rice, yoghurt, and vermillion powder) as well as Jamara (Sacred yellow grass) and gifts as well as gives blessings using Dakshina (money).
Tikas and blessings from elder relatives defines the day. Traditionally, this celebration takes place over four days. Lavishly prepared meal (including meat delicacy) savor the entire festival.
The festive moods are on for all age groups. While the seniors enjoy meeting their younger members, the youngest ones happily collect their ‘Dakshina’ (money), eat delicacies, and play around.
Kojagrat Purnima – The Fifteenth Day
In Hinduism, the day of Kojagrat falls on Purnima (the full moon). Kojagrat means “who is awake.” Traditionally, the festival begins with Ghatasthapana (1st day) and ends with a full moon on the 15th day.
The devotees of the deity Laxmi believe that God’s richest maharishi bestows on all those who stay up all night during Kojagrat Purnima.
Practices of Nepali people during Dashain festival
Taking part in card games is another way to celebrate Dashain. Each adult in the family gathers together and plays cards all day long.
The swings, or “ping” described in Nepali, one of the most popular entertainment activities for design. The swings are incredibly appealing, placed beside a lake or under snow-capped mountains.
A kite flight reminds the rain god ‘Indra’ to stop the rain and start of Autumn season. Rooftop kite flying, a common sight for people of all ages. “Changa Chait” (this phrase commonly used in Nepali to call another person who successfully cuts off their kite) echoes in the air. Kites of all shapes and colours flurry in the air as they fly.
The festival celebration highly centers around shopping for new clothing and dressing up in new clothes. Rural Nepalese have few privileges and live in disadvantaged households. Dashain festival known for lavish meal, new clothes and gambling. Most stores across the nation also offer holiday offers and discounts, making them more attractive to shoppers. Holiday sales of clothing are the highest during this period.
In small fairs, people usually enjoy riding Ferris wheels and swings. Exhibitions and celebrations for business are joint in cities.
Animal sacrifice to mark the festival season. Dashain Festival is when animal sacrifice is legal to commemorate the bloody battle between the “god.” and the “demon”. Slaughtering of thousands of animals takes place in during Dashain festival. Traditionally it said to be an actual ceremony for appeasing the goddess’ anger.
A living sacrifice offered at almost all temples, especially the Durga and Kali temples. The peak of the gift occurs on the days of Ashtami and Navami. Additionally, living sacrifices have great significance both within the religious and secular communities. People get the meat they need during the festival.
After a weeklong holiday, we return to our everyday work life and prepare ourselves for the Tihar festival again. So, how did you find our Dashain article? If you have concerns or feedback, do let us know in the comment section!