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Dashain Celebration

Am I allowed to say that I am tired of Dashain celebration? Unlike in Nepal I didn’t have 15 days holiday to celebrate the festival so juggling work and celebration was bit a tough.

As usual this year too we started our celebration on Asthami. My brother invited everyone for dinner so that was the official start of Dashain for us. Luckily it was Saturday so everyone could relax till late.

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We played cards and enjoyed the yummy food and partied till late.

The next day was Nawami. That day as per the ritual, in the morning we did our car puja.

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This year we got lucky and we had a priest who did all the rituals for us.

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Then that evening was our turn to invite everyone. We had done most of the shopping the day before but we still had to run around doing last minute shopping.

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I can’t believe I single handily made a feast for 25+ people; of course AS helped me by doing the cutting but I amazed even myself :).

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The menu was Chiura, aloo tama, rajma, chicken curry, goat curry, mula ko achar, chicken wings, salad, chips chill and some cheese and crackers.

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I am glad everyone enjoyed the food and my effort as appreciated. That day I was busy making sure everyone was enjoying and eating well. It was a fun evening and by the time everyone went home it was close to midnight.

My Jamara in Tika day

On Monday, it was Vijaya Dashami and biggest day of the all. I took a day off from work to celebrate but AS had to go to work. 😦

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I performed puja at home with our home grown jamara in the morning and in the afternoon I went to put tika at one of my friend’s place. His parents are here so it was my start of tika getting blessing from elders and eating bhoj.

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Then in the evening all of us were gathered again at my cousin’s house. We had heaps of fun putting tika on younger ones and getting blessing from the elders. As usual there was a big feast prepared and after that day I had had enough of the yummy food.

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On Tuesday, we were invited to one of my friend’s place for tika and again we ate lots of food. As coming Saturday is purnima, I still have 3 more places to go for tika and more feast.

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While talking to our parents on the Skype, they were even telling us that we are having a lot of celebration like in Nepal. I am glad we could do that but at the same time I am already so tired of eating I am sure I put on quite some weight. My work out to be fit and fine for summer went down the drain in the last few days.

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Nevertheless I had a great time with my friends and family celebrating Dashain.

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Hope all of you had a great Dashain too.

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*Asthami : Dashain *Dashain Tika update *Dashain ko Nakhatey

Dashain Tika update

So here is the update on my Dashain from Sydney. Yesterday I took a day off from work and stayed home to celebrate Dashain.

I wore my red sari to be in a festive mood and performed the puja at home first.

Then we went to my brother’s place for the celebration.

As my brother’s MIL is in town, she put tika for all of us.  Also I got tika and blessings from all the other elder persons. It was really fun as there were so many of us there.

Then I and my husband put tika on all the younger ones.

It is the first Dashain for my nephew but he can’t put tika on yet as he hasn’t completed his Pasni ceremony. Still we bought him a Dashain gift and it was a cute Jumper from pumpkin patch. He looked so cute with his new jumper on 🙂

We had a great time as we played card and have some yummy food. 🙂

Here are some photos.

Hope everyone is having a great time this Dashain.

Vijaya Dashami : Dashain

The tenth day of Dashain is called ‘Dashami’. It is also known as Vijaya Dashami and it was the day Goddess Durga was victorious over the demons. It was also the day Lord Rama won the war with the demon king, Ravana, supposedly through the Durga’s blessing. The day is, hence, symbolic of good triumphing over evil. It is on this day that the jamara is finally utilized; the elders put tika (a mixture of rice, yogurt and vermilion) and Jamara on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the upcoming years.  The red Tika also symbolizes the blood that ties the family together.

Elders give “Dakshina”, a small amount of money, to younger relatives at this time. People visit elders in their home to receive blessings. The importance of Dashain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family.

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 distant relatives) helps in the renewal of the community ties. This is one reason why the festival is celebrated with so much of vigor and enthusiasm.

Before the collapse of the monarchy system in Nepal, thousands of people ranging from the ministers, diplomats to the general public used to gather in the old royal palace to take the tika and blessing from the king, who is considered to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. However after the collapse of the monarchy system the president of the country who is considered the head of the state has been continuing the tradition by offering the tika to the general public and ministers.

A lot of feasting takes place in the meantime and everyone makes merry. Dramas of Goddess Durga fighting demons are also frequently staged.

The last day of the festival which lies on the full moon day is called ‘Kojagrata’ Purnima. The literal meaning of Kojagrata is ‘one who is awake’. On this day Goddess Laxmi who is believed to be the goddess of wealth is worshiped as it believed that goddess Laxmi descends on earth and showers whoever is awake all night with wealth and prosperity. As a result, many spend the night playing cards and doing other activities. The festival concludes when the remaining jamara and the holy vessel are disposed of by bringing them to the river.

This morning, I woke up, performed puja at home with Jamara and then went to my brother’s place where all my family gathered to celebrate Dashain. It was fun filled affair with lots of food, playing cards and having Tika ceremony.

P.S. I am so happy to share that my Jamara grew really well this year. It became longer than last year.  🙂 Here are some photos.

Fulpati: Dashain

After Ghatasthapana, the next major excitement arrives with Fulpati, also known as Saptami, which is the seventh day of the festival. Today is Fulpati. Phool(Ful) means flower and pati means leaves and plants in Nepali. FulPati literally means flowers, leaves and plants.

On this day, in the past when the Nepal was ruled by a king, the jamara to be used by the royal family was brought from Gorkha Palace, their ancestral house. The Fulpati (jamara and the other items that are necessary for tika) is brought after a three day walk from Gorkha district which is about a hundred and sixty nine kilometres away from the valley of Kathmandu. A parade is held at Tundikhel ground in Kathmandu.

 

However, since 2008 when the monarchy was abolished, the two-century old tradition was changed so that the holy offering of Fulpati goes to the residence of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has taken over the king’s social and religious roles after the fall of the royal government. The Fulpati is brought from Gorkha to Dhading district from where six Brahmins carried it to Jamal. From Jamal, the Fulpati filled with holy water, banana stalks, jamara and sugarcane tied with red cloth to be offered to Goddess Durga, is carried by Bhramans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella to the Dashain Ghar in Hanuman Dhoka. The Gurujyuko Platoon, the Nepal army, Nepal police, and high-ranking officials of Armed Police and civil service, band music, and panchebaja bands also join the Fulpati parade. While the sacred items are being placed in Hanuman Dhoka palace, there is a majestic display of the Nepalese Army along with a celebratory firing of weapons that continues for ten to fifteen minutes honouring Fulpati. Army parade in Tundikhel is watched by the President, Prime Minister and other high level dignitaries in conventional formal dress.

All government as well as private offices close down from today encouraging people to go back to their respective ancestral homes and receive blessings from Durga Bhawani as well as their elders.

According to historian Prakash Darnal, the Fulpati celebration was started during the rule of Late King Prithivi Narayan Shah, after he united the small kingdoms into one Nepal.

Though Dashain begins with Ghatasthapana, the festival gets special flavour from the day of Fulpati.

As there is not much happening in Sydney for Fulpathi, we just gather in my house and had Samay Baji. This is a newari style Bhoj that we have in Nepal during Dashain. I will write details about the Samay Baji in my next post. This it what it looks like.

The festival will continue with Maha Asthami on Monday, Nawami on Tuesday and Dashami on Wednesday.

Dashain

Dashain is the 15 day Hindu festival celebrated in Nepal. It is the longest Hindu festival and it falls around September – October, starting from the bright lunar fortnight and ending on the day of full moon. Dashain is also popularly referred to as Bada Dasain, Dashera, Vijaya Dashami etc.

This year Dashain starts today, 16 October which is Ghatasthapana (Literally pot establishing). Ghatasthapana is the first day of Dashain and it is the day in which Jamara is planted on a pot or Kalash. The other important days for the festivals are Day 7 called Fulpati (21 October), Day 8 called Maha Asthami (22 October), Day 9 called Maha Nawami (23 October) and Day 10 called Dashami (24 October). The festival ends the 15th day with Purnima, full moon.

Every year Nepalis, remember the message “Good always wins over the evil”, with the celebration of the great festival of Bada Dashain.

Legend behind Dashain

King Ram Chandra, whose wife Sita was kidnapped by King Rawan, with the help of hanuman and its military, conquered Rawan on the tenth day, after regular worship of Durga Bhawani for 9 days. The 10th day is the victory day. We put tika on our forehead as prasad of the victory.

Another legend goes like this.

Demons, or Asuras, became very powerful and ambitious and continually tried to defeat the Devas, or Gods, and capture Heaven. One Asura, Mahishasur, in the form of a bull, grew very powerful and created havoc on the earth. Asuras started defeating the Devas and chasing them away from the heaven. The world was crushed under Mahishasura’s cruelty; the Devas put their energy together and form Shakti, a single mass of incandescent energy, to kill Mahishasur.

A very powerful band of lightning emerged from the mouths of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and a young, beautiful female virgin with ten hands appeared. All the Gods gave their powers and special weapons to her. This Shakti blended to form the goddess Durga. Riding on a lion, Durga Bhawanu fought Mahishasur. The battle raged for nine days and nights. Finally on the tenth day of Ashvin shukla paksha, Mahishasur was defeated and killed by Durga. This is the day of celebration.

Day 1: Ghatasthapana

Ghatasthapana marks the beginning of Dashain. It literally means installing a pot which symbolizes Goddess Shakti. In this day, Jamara is planted establishing the holy Kalash vessel, which represents the goddess Durga. Goddess Shakti is believed to reside in the Kalash vessel during the Dashain.

Today, everyone in Nepal will plant Jamara to mark the start of Dashain. Normally, Jamara is planted in Puja ghar (prayer room). Jamara pot 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.

Today, before coming to work, I planted my Jamara as well :). It is the second time I have planted Jamara and I am hoping like last year, it will be a good one so I can use this for puja and tika .

How to plant Jamara

  • Soak barley seeds overnight. I used a Jamara mix (barley, corn, wheat) from Nepali grocery shop.

  • Get a deep bowl or container with a flat bottom. I am using a clay flower pot this year. Fill it with a layer of sand about 2 inches thick.

  • Sprinkle a layer of soaked Jamara mix into the container.

  • Make sure it is only one layer of the seeds so they have enough room to sprout.

  • Cover the seeds with a thin layer of sand.

  •  Sprinkle some water in the container. The sand should be moist, but not soggy.

  • Cover the container and put it in a dark corner, away from the sun.

  • Check the container daily to make sure that the sand is moist.

  • Your Jamara should be is ready for Tika.

Click here to see how Jamara looks like from my last year’s post.

If you are in Nepal, you will see lots of signs of Dashani which will remind you that the festival season is on.

Lots of kites in the sky

Flying kites has been a very important part of celebrating Dashain in the country as it is considered to be one way of reminding god not to send rain anymore. When I was a kid, we used to gather on the rooftop of the house and take turns flying kites. My brothers and his friends would be there and I would be there trying to learn how to fly kite. They used to teach me but most of the time I dropped the kite too low when I was taking control and one of them would jump in and take over  before someone could cut it in the sky, with so many kites fighting already.

When you cut someone else’s kite, you shout ‘Changa Chet‘ literally meaning Kite, cut! If we had a big group of friends we even used to take metal plates or metal buckets with metal spoons and bang them to make a loud noise to celebrate the Changa Chet. I know it might sound weird but it was lots of fun.

Ohoo, how I miss my childhood Dashain.

Kites are not only for kids but adults get into the spirit and have some fun too.

Everyone playing cards

Gambling is illegal in the Nepal but it is usually permitted in public places during this festival. While children are busy flying kites during Dashain, the older members of the family pass their time by getting together and playing cards with each other for money and fun all day long.

As a kid, I remember playing cards using 1 shuka (a quarter /25 paisa) and trying to win more money. It was so much fun to team up with the cousins and play it as a group. That is the only time we didn’t get scolding from our elder for playing cards.

 Everyone busy shopping for new clothes

I would never have thought as a kid I would ever own 100s of dresses or shoes in my lifetime. As a kid, Dashain was especially exciting as I got to buy new clothes along with a new pair of shoes which I could wear during the festivals. All of my friends used to gather during Dashain and show off our new dress and shoes 🙂

Buying and wearing new clothes is an important part of the festival. As many people are living in the villages below the poverty line and for them it is often the case that new clothes come only with Dashain. Almost all the shops in the country have festival offers and discounts. This makes shopping even more attractive to people. Clothes have the highest sales during the festival.

To get into the Spirit of Dashain, we went shopping last weekend and I bought two dresses and a pair of shoes. My husband bought a jacket and a few t-shirts :). I am wearing my new dress today so Dashain has already made an impact in our lives.

Swings everywhere

During Dashain, bamboo swings are constructed a week before Ghatasthapana in many parts of the country as a way of celebration. These bamboo swings are called ‘ping’ in Nepali. These kinds of swings present the best of local culture, tradition, community spirit and fun.

These swings are constructed with the help of community members using traditional methods which make the use of ropes made from tough grass, bamboo poles and wood etc. Theses swings are dismantled only after the festival of Tihar which is 2 weeks after Dashain.

The heights of some swings exceed twenty feet and one can swing really high. One can see people of all ages enjoying the swing. It is especially famous with the children.

I used to love these swings. It goes so high that the adrenaline kicks in. I used be a bit scared to get on at first but once you are on it, it is a great feeling. I am sure these kinds of swings won’t be allowed in western countries as it will be consider a health hazard as it doesn’t have any safety harness 🙂

Dashain Fairs everywhere

Different kinds of fairs are also organized during the festival. Usually small fairs are organized in the villages with the Ferris wheels for children and other items of entertainment for the adults. However, in the city it is the commercial fairs and celebration events that are usually organized.

My memories of Dashain fairs are of Bhrikuti Mandap Dashain Mela. My parents used to take my brother and me there and we were allowed to buy treats. They had concerts, dance shows, magic shows, family games, Band competitions, games, food, and a lot more. They also had stalls with goats, chickens, ducks etc. and great for people who want to buy animals to sacrifice for Nawami.

Also these days they organise lots of musical concerts during these festivities.

In Sydney, during Dashain there are lots of musical concerts with Nepali artists visiting down under to celebrate the festivals. Dashain festival and dance parties are also organised here to make merry and have a get together.

Animals slaughtered

This is probably the worst part of Dashain for me that thousands of animals such as buffaloes, ducks, goats, etc. are slaughtered during Dashain every year.

It is considered an important ritual since it is believed that the goddesses are appeased by such sacrifices. Almost all the temples, especially the temples of Goddess Durga and Kali  around the country are offered with thousands of sacrifices.

Asthami and Nawami are the days when the sacrifices reach their peak. While thousands of animals are sacrificed to appease the goddesses, people also slaughter animals for the purpose of feasts. Since a large number of feasts and gatherings are organized throughout the fifteen days of the festival, the demand for meat goes up considerably. Hence to meet the demands the slaughtering of animals becomes considerably high during the festival.

However, for the past few years the animal rights activists in the country have been continuously opposing these acts of slaughtering of animals in such a manner. They have been requesting people to stop such inhuman acts of killing the innocent animals and instead have suggested them to offer fruits and vegetables to the Goddesses since they believe that it is mentioned nowhere in the Hindu religious books that such sacrifices appease the gods and goddesses.

I do know that we need meat from animals but I still think it doesn’t need to be cruel killing of animals for the meat. I am sure there can be less violent way of killing animals for their meat.

As I am not into killing animals and also I can’t do that in Australia so I will be using coconut instead to mark Nawami. I will keep you posted about Dashain for the next 15 days.

A relaxed mind, a peaceful soul, a joyful spirit, a healthy body; be a heart full of love, may you have all these every day. Happy Dashain everyone!!!