Every religion has their own version of good versus evil. Christians recall the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by the devil, Jews remember the fall of humanity through the sin of Adam and Eve, and Muslims tell about Iblis, a fallen angel who refused to obey God’s command.
Hindus, Buddhists, and those of Kirati descent in Nepal have Dashain, a 15-day spiritual festival.
What is Dashain and Why is it Celebrated?
According to Hindu theology, Mahishasura – a buffalo shape-shifting demon – invades and wreaks havoc on the devaloka, the plane where gods and devas live. Durga, the goddess of war, decides to take matters into her own hands and engages the foul beast in combat. There are many manifestations of Durga, and the days of the festival celebrate each aspect of her. Finally, on the tenth day, Durga defeats Mahishasura, culminating in the high point of the battle: the triumph of good.
What Are the Key Celebrations of Dashain?
Let’s look at some of the most important days of celebration:
- Day 1 – The beginning of the festival is marked with a blessing. A Hindu priest takes a large metal pot called a kalasha and pours holy water inside it, then covers it with dung so that Jamara seeds can be planted. These seeds are fast-growing and are expected to sprout within ten days. The pot is then placed in a special prayer room, and the priest gives it his blessing in a ceremony called a puja, imploring the spirit of Durga to come down and make her presence known.
- Day 7 – The largest celebration takes place on this day. The kalasha is carried along with an assortment of flora such as banana sticks, wood apple leaves, wheatgrass, and sugarcanes bound with red cloth. This is referred to as a Phulpati (which literally means flowers, plants, and leaves), a full parade and spiritual procession. The Nepalese Army shows off its skill and talent with a ceremonial firing, and the President also pays his respects. There is no work on this day, and everyone is encouraged to return to their ancestral homes to ask for blessings from the goddess Durga. Once the march is over, the feasting officially begins.
- Day 8 – On the eighth day, priests and penitents perform the ritual animal sacrifice of buffalos, goats, chickens, and ducks, using the spilled blood in various cleansing ceremonies and rites. Once the services are offered, eating the animal is believed to bring favor upon the consumer. The locals mark this occasion with parties and feasts, thereby making it an extremely joyous moment among the Nepalese people.
- Day 9 – On this day many work tools and vehicles are blessed through sacrificial offerings. The Taleju Temple, Nepal’s most illustrious place of worship that is normally closed to visitors opens to the general public for this day alone. Thousands of pilgrims line up to enter its sacred space.
- Day 10 – On the tenth day, elder relatives and friends give children pocket money and a blessing in the form of a tika, a sticky red paste that is sometimes mixed with rice and applied on the forehead. The Jamara seeds that were planted on the first day will have matured by now, and the plants are taken and used as one of the main ingredients. This day strengthens the bonds of the community and connects generations.
- Day 15 – Culminating the battle of good and evil is the worship of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. There is a local belief that whoever stays up all night is going to be granted an abundance of blessings, and hence the festivities literally last for a full day. It helps that the final moments of the festival also happen on a full moon, so the second sun in the sky shines as brightly as its celebrants.
Celebrating Dashain While Abroad
Nepalese people around the world save their vacation days so they can return home and attend Dashain. It is a time when the entire country of Nepal is united in its values and identity. Unfortunately, many Nepalese can’t return home, but in their absence they send money home to their loved ones. These remittances contribute to a staggering 28% to its total GDP.
The central message of Dashain though is that good wins over evil, and love transcends pain and suffering.
Ria Celebrates Dashain by Adding $3 to Money Transfers Sent to Nepal
Use code DASHAIN to add $3 to your next transfer to Nepal – plus, $0 fee! Offer valid on transfers over $100 from the US to Nepal from 9/29/19 through 10/8/19.