Day 7: Dussehra in the Himalayan Kingdom Nepal

Vijayadashami also known as Dashain in Nepal, signifies the victory of good over evil. It is the longest and one of the most auspicious festivals that is marked in Birkam Sambat and Nepal Sambat calendar. Vijayadashami is the most popular and celebrated festival in Nepal. It is also celebrated in many parts of India in different styles and traditions amongst Hindus and Sanatanis. 


In Nepal the Vijayadashami festival begins on the 1st day of Ashwija month. First day of the Vijayadashami celebrations is called Gathaspana and the festival is celebrated till the 15th day of the full moon known as Kojagrat Purnima. The festival is also widely celebrated by Nepalese and ethnic Nepalese people of Darjeeling hills, Sikkim, Assam, the Lotshampas of Bhutan and Burmese Gurkhas of Myanmar in a similar style and tradition. Goddess Durga is the key deity of this festival in Nepal. Maa Durga and her manifestations are worshipped during the first nine days of this festival. The first nine days are known as Navaratri (nine nights) and the 10th day is celebrated as Vijayadashami (also called as Dushera or Dashain). 


Dashain begins in Nepal with the first day of Navratri called Gathaspana. On this day the households place the Kalash (sacred water pot) that symbolizes Maa Durga. The kalash is worshipped twice daily and alongside a mixture of grains ( or single grain) especially barley, wheat, rice, corn etc are sown in a small pot filled with soil. This pot is kept by the side of the kalash and is kept such that no sunlight falls on it. The sown seeds are nurtured for the next days of Dashain. These seeds grow into beautiful greenish yellow saplings called Jamara. Prayers are offered everyday to the kalash, the Jamara(sown seeds) and Maa Durga.


The 7th day of festivities is called Fulpati. By day 7, the sowed grains, Jamara grow into beautiful saplings. On the 7th day Nepal Government observes a tradition where in, the Royal Kalash tied together with Banana Stalks, sugarcane and Jamara in red cloth is brought to the capital city Kathmandu from Gorkha district (this place is also known as the place of founding kings of the county). A public ceremony and puja is held and attended by the Head of the state. There will be a ceremony parade by Nepal Army, honouring the Kalash and Jamara.


The intensified celebration of Dashain begins from this day in Nepal with the beginning of public holidays till the Kojagrat Purnima, the 15th Day.


The following day of celebrations is Astami also known as ‘Maha Astami’. The day marks the celebration of the fiercest manifestation of Maa Durga. In many families and cultures the goddess is offered with sacrifice of various animals and birds in temples and shrines.


The 9th day of the festival is called Navami or Maha navami. It is also the last day of Navratri. Government and military celebrations, ceremonies and rituals peak on this day. Navami also marks worshipping of Lord Vishwakarma (the legendary Engineer and Architect) with the belief that all things and inventions that make our lives easy and comfortable should be honoured and respected.


The 10th and the most important day of celebration is known as Vijaya Dashami/ Dashain. The day starts with family gatherings where all people seek blessings from their seniors. There is a specific and particular way where the ritual of giving and seeking blessings happens. A mixture of rice grains, yogurt and vermilion is prepared known as ‘tika’, alongside the tika the blessings from Goddess Durga the ‘Jamara’ is placed.


After this all the elder members of the family, extended families and community put tika on the foreheads and Jamara over the heads of the young ones along with their blessings. This tradition of tika and blessings continues for the next 4/5 days till the day the full moon appears. During these days people move between families, extended families and communities to seek blessings of all seniors with tika and jamara. Nepal also has a tradition that, on the day of Dashami the head of the state provides tika to citizens and persons who come to seek for tika in designated place. This ritual of seeking tika and blessings from all elders immensely strengthens the family and community ties. Everyone will be busy in the quest to seek blessings from the elders. There will be a lot of family and house hopping with vigour, enthusiasm and happiness. The festivities end on the 15th day which happens to be Kojagrat Purnima (the full moon day). Kojagrat in literal sense means “the one who is awake all night’. Goddess of Wealth, Maa Lakshmi is worshipped on this day. It is believed that, Maa Lakshmi descends to earth on this night and showers blessings and prosperity to the awakened ones.


Thus the 15 days of celebration pass with worships, flying kites, playing music, making personal and community bamboo swings, organising various fairs and having fun. The 15th day, the Kojagrat Purnima ends the celebration of Dashain but it is not the end of celebration. Within a month of Dashain the celebration of Deepawali begins in Nepal, which is a 5 day celebration with lights, sibling bonding and merry making.


Author: Deepak Raj Pandaya


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