There is something about October. Around the world there are holidays and festivals celebrating the triumph of good over evil and of light over darkness. The Festival of Dashain is celebrated by Nepalese people around the world for just this reason. Festivities for the 15-day celebration l begin on Oct. 12 this year and center mostly around food. During this Hindu festival is also the only time religious observers are allowed entrance to the Taleju Temple for holy observation. The festival is also celebrated in the Indian hill states of Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling district and among the Lhotshampa people of Bhutan[ and the Burmese Gurkhas of Myanmar.
It is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Bikram Sambat annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese people, along with their diaspora throughout the globe. People return from all parts of the world, as well as different parts of the country, to celebrate together. All government offices, educational institutions and other offices remain closed during the festival period. The festival runs starting from the shukla paksha (bright lunar fortnight) of the month of Ashvin and ending on purnima, the full moon. Ashvin overlaps western September and October so sometoime the festival starts in September but it’s theme is an October one. Among the fifteen days on which it is celebrated, the most important days are the first, seventh, eighth, ninth and the tenth
Among the Hindus and Buddhist Newars, it is celebrated with slight differences and interpretations, where each nine days Navaratri leading up to the 10th day called ‘Dashami’ carry special importance.The goddess Durga and her various manifestations are especially worshiped by Hindu Newars throughout the Kathmandu Valley. Among Newars, Mwohni is also important for its emphasis on family gatherings as well as on a renewal of community ties, highlighted by special family dinners called Nakhtyā and various community processions of deities called Jātrā throughout the three royal cities of Kathmandu Valley.
For followers of Shaktism, it represents the victory of the goddess Parvati. In Hindu mythology, the demon Mahishasura had created terror in the devaloka (the world where gods live ) but Durga killed the demon. The first nine days of Dashain symbolize the battle which took place between the different manifestations of Durga and Mahishasura. The tenth day is the day when Durga finally defeated him. For other Hindus, this festival symbolizes the victory of Ram over Ravan as recounted in the classic epic Ramayana.
An eighth day is called the ‘Maha Asthami’. This is the day when the most fierce of Goddess Durga’s manifestations, the bloodthirsty Kali, is appeased through the sacrifice of buffaloes, goats, hens and ducks in temples throughout the nation. Blood, symbolic for its fertility, is offered to the Goddesses. Appropriately enough, the night of this day is called Kal Ratri (Black Night). It is also the norm for buffaloes to be sacrificed in the courtyards of all the land revenue offices in the country on this day. The old palace in Basantapur Hanuman Dhoka is active throughout the night with worships and sacrifices in almost every courtyard.
It sounds bloodthirsty but the animals are eaten by the people as well and for many this is a rare feast. The country is poor and there are other religious restrictions on meat eating. After the offering of the blood, the meat is taken home and cooked as “prasad”, or food blessed by divinity. This food is offered in tiny leaf plates to the household Gods, then distributed among the family. Still, for the past few years, the animal rights activists in the country have been continuously opposing these acts of slaughter. They have been requesting people to stop such inhuman acts 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 animal sacrifices appease the gods and goddesses.
The ninth day of dashain is called Mahanavami, “the great ninth day”. This is the last day of Navaratri. Ceremonies and rituals reach the peak on this day. . This day is also known as the demon-hunting day because members of the defeated demon army try to save themselves by hiding in the bodies of animals and fowls.
On Mahanavami, Vishvakarman, the god of creation, is worshiped as it believed that all the things which help us in making a living should be kept happy. Artisans, craftsmen, traders, and mechanics worship and offer animal and fowl blood to their tools, equipment, and vehicles. Moreover, since it is believed that worshipping the vehicles on this day avoids accidents for the year all the vehicles from bikes, cars to trucks are worshiped on this day. The Taleju Temple gates are opened to the general public on only this day of the year. Thousands of devotees go and pay respect to the goddess this day. The temple is filled with devotees all day long.
The last day of the festival which lies on the full moon day is called ‘Kojagrata’ Purnima. The literal meaning of Kojagrata is ‘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. People enjoy the night by playing cards and much more.
Dasain is not just about sacrifices. Kites a flown as Dashain Festival draws near and during the festival. People fly highly decorative kites from their roof tops and elsewhere and shout out “Changa Cheit” whenever kite strings get tangled. Playing card games is common during Dashain., and not just on Kojagrata.Homes are cleaned thoroughly and decorated ornately. This is meant to be a gesture to the Hindu “mother goddess” to come down and bless the home with good luck. Distant family members also gather and enjoy reunions in the clean and beautiful houses.Many purchase new clothing and wear it at this time of year.Temporary swings are constructed out of bamboo and set up for children to play at. Adults even stop to try out the swings, which can be up to 20 feet high. They are disassembled at the end of the festivities