Are you curious to know when Dashain, one of the most vibrant and widely celebrated festivals in Nepal, takes place? Dashain, also known as Vijaya Dashami, is a grand festival that marks the victory of good over evil, and it holds immense cultural and religious significance for the people of Nepal.
This festival, which lasts for fifteen days, usually falls in late September or early October, depending on the lunar calendar. During this lively period, the streets of Nepal come alive with the spirit of celebration, as families gather, exchange gifts, feasts on delicious delicacies, and participate in various religious rituals.
Let’s explore the enchantment and joy that Dashain brings to Nepal’s vibrant culture.
Dashain Festival Overview
Dashain is one of the most important and widely celebrated festivals in Nepalese culture. It is a time of great joy and excitement for people of all ages, as they come together to celebrate the victory of good over evil. Dashain holds deep religious and cultural significance and is observed with great enthusiasm throughout Nepal and by Nepalese communities around the world.
Importance of Dashain in Nepalese Culture
Dashain holds immense importance in Nepalese culture as it symbolizes the triumph of good over evil. It is a time to reflect on the values of love, compassion, and unity. The festival brings people together, strengthens familial bonds, and fosters a sense of community. Dashain is also seen as an opportunity for self-reflection and self-improvement, as individuals seek forgiveness from their elders and strive to do better in the coming year.
Duration of Dashain Festival
Dashain is a 15-day long festival, commonly known as the Nepalese “Festival of Victory”. It falls during the month of September or October, depending on the lunar calendar. The festival begins with Ghatasthapana and concludes on the final day, known as Tika, which is considered the main day of Dashain.
Significance of Dashain
Dashain is celebrated to honor the mother goddess Durga and her victory over the buffalo demon Mahisasura. It is believed that during this time, the goddess Durga bestows blessings on her devotees and grants them strength and prosperity. The festival also marks the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the harvest season, making it a time of thanksgiving for the bounties of nature.
Religious Beliefs Associated with Dashain
Dashain is deeply rooted in Hindu mythology and is considered a time of heightened spiritual significance. It is believed that during Dashain, goddess Durga descends to earth and takes residence in the sacred vessels placed in homes, known as the jamara. People offer prayers and worship the goddess in the hope of receiving her blessings and protection. The festival also involves the worship of various other deities, including Kali, Laxmi, Saraswati, and Ganesh.
Preparations for Dashain
The preparations for Dashain start weeks in advance, as people engage in various activities to ensure a joyous celebration. Homes are cleaned and decorated, and colorful lights are put up to create a festive ambiance. Families come together to purchase new clothes, traditional ornaments, and gifts for their loved ones. Delicious food items, including sweets and delicacies, are prepared to be shared with family, friends, and guests.
Dashain Festival Dates
Lunar Calendar and Determining Dashain Dates
The dates of Dashain are determined based on the lunar calendar, which follows the phases of the moon. The festival usually falls in September or October, aligning with the bright lunar fortnight of the month of Asoj. The exact dates of Dashain vary from year to year, as they depend on the celestial movements and the lunar calendar calculations.
Dashain Celebration Schedule
Dashain is celebrated over a period of 15 days, each day holding its own significance and rituals. The initial days of Dashain are dedicated to cleaning and preparing for the festival. The most important days of celebration include the Navaratri, which spans over nine nights, and ends with the grand celebration of Tika, the main day of Dashain.
Navaratri – The Nine Nights Celebration
During the Navaratri, the first nine days of Dashain, different forms of goddess Durga are worshipped. Each day is associated with a different manifestation of the goddess and has its own rituals and significance. Devotees offer prayers, perform traditional dances, and participate in musical performances to honor the goddess and seek her blessings.
Tika – Main Day of Dashain
The final day of Dashain, known as Tika, holds immense importance. On this day, family members gather together, and the elders in the family perform a sacred ceremony known as Tika. Elders apply a mixture of vermillion powder, yogurt, and rice to the foreheads of their younger relatives, while giving them blessings for prosperity, longevity, and good health. This act of seeking and granting forgiveness is considered an integral part of Dashain traditions.
Rituals and Traditions
Ghatasthapana – Setting Up the Sacred Vessel
Ghatasthapana is the ritual marking the beginning of Dashain. It involves the setting up of a clay pot filled with holy water, known as the kalash. The kalash is adorned with barley seeds, and a jamara (a sprout of barley or maize) is planted in it. The kalash is kept in a sacred area of the house and worshipped throughout the duration of Dashain.
Worship of Goddess Durga
During Dashain, devotees offer prayers and perform traditional rituals to honor and please the goddess Durga. Temples dedicated to the goddess are beautifully decorated, and people visit these temples to offer flowers, incense, and other offerings. Special ceremonies and pujas are conducted by priests to seek the blessings of the goddess and ensure a prosperous year ahead.
Animal Sacrifice Rituals
Animal sacrifice rituals are a prominent part of Dashain traditions. While the practice is controversial and not universally accepted, many families still perform sacrifices as a way to honor and please the goddess Durga. The sacrificed animals, usually goats or buffaloes, are considered as offerings to the goddess, and their meat is shared with family, friends, and the less fortunate.
Flying Kites – Symbol of Good Luck
Flying kites is a popular activity during Dashain, especially among children and young adults. Colorful kites fill the sky, as people engage in friendly kite-flying competitions. The act of flying kites during Dashain is believed to bring good luck and drive away evil spirits, while also symbolizing freedom and joy.
Swings and Traditional Games
Swings, known as ping in Nepali, are a common sight during Dashain. People of all ages enjoy swinging on specially constructed swings, which are usually made out of bamboo and decorated with flowers and colorful fabrics. Additionally, traditional games such as Deusi-Bhailo (singing and dancing in groups) and Sugali (a game involving sticks) are played during this festive season, adding to the joyful atmosphere.
Dashain Customs and Practices
Reuniting with Family and Celebrating
Dashain is a time for family reunions and celebrations. People travel from different parts of the country to their hometowns to be with their loved ones during this auspicious occasion. The festival provides an opportunity for families to come together, strengthen their bonds, and create cherished memories.
Elders Blessing and Seeking Forgiveness
One of the most significant traditions of Dashain is seeking blessings from the elders in the family. Younger members offer their respects to their elders by touching their feet and receiving their blessings. This act symbolizes respect, gratitude, and the importance of family values. It is also a time for seeking forgiveness from elders for any past mistakes or misunderstandings.
Family Gatherings and Feasting
Dashain is a time for extravagant feasting and indulging in delicious food. Families gather to share mouth-watering meals and delicacies, such as selroti (a sweet, circular bread), khasi ko masu (goat meat curry), and kwati (a traditional dish made of mixed beans). The festive meals are not only a way to celebrate but also a means of strengthening familial ties and nurturing the sense of community.
Tihar and Other Festivals Following Dashain
Following Dashain, the festival of Tihar is celebrated, which is also known as the festival of lights. Tihar is a five-day long festival that involves worshipping various deities, including the goddess Laxmi (goddess of wealth and prosperity), and the worship of animals such as dogs, cows, and crows. Tihar adds to the ongoing festive spirit and extends the celebration beyond Dashain.
Dashain Souvenirs and Market Attractions
During Dashain, the marketplaces bustle with activity, as people shop for new clothes, home decorations, and gifts. The streets are adorned with colorful lights and decorations, creating a vibrant atmosphere. Craftsmen and artisans display their skills, selling handicrafts, pottery, and intricately designed jewelry. The market becomes a hub of excitement and offers a variety of options to choose from for Dashain souvenirs.
Dashain Festival in Different Regions
Dashain Celebrations in Kathmandu Valley
In the Kathmandu Valley, Dashain is celebrated with great grandeur and enthusiasm. The city comes alive with cultural performances, music, and dance events. Temples and historical sites are adorned with lights and decorations, attracting tourists and locals alike. The traditional significance of Dashain is interwoven with the modern lifestyle of the city, making it a unique and memorable experience for visitors.
Dashain Festivities in Rural Areas
In rural areas of Nepal, Dashain is observed with deep-rooted traditions and customs. People in these regions engage in agricultural activities, such as harvesting crops and offering the first fruit of their harvest to the deities. The celebrations in rural areas are characterized by simpler, more traditional practices that highlight the close connection between nature and the festivities.
Unique Dashain Traditions in Various Ethnic Communities
Nepal is home to a diverse range of ethnic communities, each with its distinctive cultural practices. Dashain is celebrated differently by various ethnic groups, with each community adding its unique flavor to the festival. For example, the Newar community has its own set of traditions, including the Mha Puja or “worship of the self” ceremony, which is not observed by other groups. These distinct traditions contribute to the rich tapestry of Nepalese culture and make Dashain truly inclusive and diverse.
Dashain and Nepalese Diaspora
Nepalese Communities Around the World
In addition to being celebrated in Nepal, Dashain is observed by Nepalese communities residing all around the world. Nepalese diaspora in countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia come together to celebrate Dashain with great fervor. Community events, cultural programs, and religious ceremonies are organized to ensure that the spirit of Dashain is maintained even in foreign lands.
Observing Dashain Abroad
Nepalese families living abroad carry on the traditions and rituals of Dashain to keep their cultural heritage alive. They prepare traditional meals, offer prayers, and exchange gifts just as they would in their homeland. Celebrating Dashain abroad acts as a way of staying connected to their roots and passing on the cultural legacy to the younger generations.
Preserving Dashain Traditions in Foreign Lands
Nepalese diaspora actively organize cultural programs and events during Dashain to preserve their traditions and share them with the wider community. It is a time for showcasing the richness of Nepalese culture through music, dance, traditional attire, and culinary delights. These initiatives not only keep the traditions alive but also create a sense of community and belonging among the diaspora.
Dashain – Past and Present
Historical Evolution of Dashain
Dashain has a long and rich history that dates back centuries. The festival has evolved over time, with influences from various dynasties and rulers. Dashain has served as a symbol of resistance during times of conflict and has played an essential role in uniting communities and fostering a sense of national identity. The historical evolution of Dashain is a testament to its enduring significance in Nepalese culture.
Modern-Day Dashain Celebrations
While the essence of Dashain remains deeply rooted in tradition, modern-day celebrations have embraced new dimensions. Technology has played a significant role in enhancing and spreading the festive spirit. Social media platforms are abuzz with Dashain greetings, showcasing the diversity of celebrations across different regions. However, traditional rituals, customs, and practices remain integral to the festival, preserving the authenticity of Dashain.
Influence of Technology on Dashain
In the digital age, technology has had a profound impact on the way Dashain is celebrated. People connect with their loved ones through video calls, sending virtual Dashain greetings and blessings. Social media platforms provide a platform for sharing festive moments, and online marketplaces offer a convenient way to purchase Dashain essentials. While technology has brought convenience and connectivity, it is essential to maintain the balance between traditional customs and the modernization of Dashain celebrations.
Festive Music and Dance
Dashain Songs and Melodies
Music plays a crucial role in adding joy and vibrancy to Dashain festivities. Specific songs and melodies are associated with the festival and are widely played and sung during this time. These songs often recount the mythological stories and highlight the triumph of good over evil. Traditional musical instruments such as the madal, tabla, and harmonium are used to create the rhythmic melodies that accompany the celebrations.
Traditional Dance Forms During Dashain
Dance is an integral part of Dashain celebrations, with various traditional dance forms being performed during the festival. One such dance form is the Deusi-Bhailo, where groups of people dance and sing in traditional attire, going door to door to collect offerings and blessings. Other popular dance forms include the Dhan Naach (harvest dance) and the Durga Naach (dance depicting the victory of goddess Durga).
Dashain Music Instrumentation
Traditional Nepalese instruments are an essential element of Dashain music. The madal, a small drum, is the most commonly used percussion instrument, providing rhythmic beats that accompany the songs and dances. The tabla, an Indian-origin percussion instrument, and the harmonium, a small portable organ, are also played during musical performances. These traditional instruments add a distinct touch to the festive music of Dashain.
Dashain – Beyond Religious Observances
Promoting National Unity and Identity
Dashain has played a significant role in promoting national unity and fostering a shared identity among Nepalese people. The festival brings people from different castes, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds together, emphasizing the values of inclusivity and harmony. Dashain is a time when people set aside their differences and come together to celebrate their shared cultural heritage.
Economic Impact of Dashain
Dashain is marked by increased economic activity and expenditure. The festival spurs domestic tourism, as people travel to their hometowns or popular tourist destinations. It is also a time of heightened consumer spending, with people indulging in new clothes, gifts, and household items. The Dashain season provides a significant boost to various sectors, including transportation, hospitality, retail, and agriculture.
Tourism and Dashain Festivals
Dashain is a popular time for tourists to visit Nepal, attracted by the vibrant celebrations and cultural extravaganza. The festivals provide visitors with an opportunity to experience Nepalese culture and witness traditional rituals up close. Tourists can also explore the diverse landscapes and scenic beauty of Nepal during this festive season, creating a perfect blend of cultural immersion and memorable travel experiences.
Dashain, the grand Nepalese festival, holds immense cultural, religious, and social significance. It is a time to celebrate the victory of good over evil, honor traditions, and come together as a community. The festival encompasses various rituals, traditions, and customs that are observed with enthusiasm and joy. Dashain not only strengthens familial bonds but also promotes national unity and identity.
As technology continues to shape and influence celebrations, it remains crucial to preserve the authenticity and traditional values associated with this auspicious festival. Dashain showcases the rich tapestry of Nepalese culture, fostering a sense of togetherness and pride among Nepalese people, both at home and abroad.