Dashain or Bada'dashain, also referred as Vijaya Dashami in Sanskrit, is a major Hindu religious festival in Nepal and the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal. It is also celebrated by Hindus of Nepal and elsewhere in the world, including among the Lhotshampa of Bhutan and the Burmese Gurkhas of Myanmar.
Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorized the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo.
The first nine days signify the nine days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain, and the last five days symbolize the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.
The first nine days of Dashain are called Nawa Ratri when tantric rites are conducted. In Nepal, the life force is embodied in the divine energy and power of the female, depicted as goddess Durga in her many forms. All goddess who emanated from goddess Durga are known as devis, each with different aspects and powers. In most mother goddess temples, the deity is represented simply as a sacred Kalash, carved water jug or multiple handed goddess holding murderous weapons. During these nine days, people pay their homage to the goddess. If she is properly worshiped and pleased good fortunes are on the way and if angered through neglect then misfortunes are around the corner. Mother goddess is the source of life and everything.
Gha?asthapana; marks the beginning of Dashain. On this day, the Kalash is filled with holy water and is then sewn with barley seeds. Then the Kalash is put in the center of a rectangular sand block. The remaining bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The priest then starts the puja by asking Durga to bless the vessel with her presence. This ritual is performed at a certain auspicious time, which is determined by the astrologers. The goddess is believed to reside in the vessel during Navaratri.
The room where all this is done is known as the Dashain Ghar. Traditionally, outsiders are not allowed to enter it. A family member worships the Kalash twice every day, once in the morning and then in the evening. The Kalash 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. These rituals continue until the seventh day.
The seventh day is called 'Fulpati', In fulpati, the royal kalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the fulpati parade. With this, the Dashain feasting starts.
The eighth day is called the Maha Asthami: The fervor of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house throughout the day. The night of the eighth day is called 'Kal Ratri', the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues till dawn. While the puja is being carried out, great feasts are held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat are consumed.
The ninth day is called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals, mostly black buffaloes, are slaughtered to honors Durga, the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends, the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity, is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, airplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year.
The tenth day of the festival is the 'Bijayadashami'. On this day, a mixture of rice, yogurt and vermilion is prepared. This preparation is known as "tika". Often Dashain tika time is different each year. Elders put this tika and jamara which is shown in the Ghatasthapana on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the coming years. Red also symbolizes the blood that ties the family and community together. Elders give "Dakshina", or a small amount of money, to younger relatives at this time along with the blessings as they visit. 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 the distant relatives) helps in the renewal of the community ties greatly. This is one reason why the festival is celebrated with so much vigor and enthusiasm.
During the Dashain festival, trekking Asian Hiking Team brings you to the local and remote areas of Nepal to celebrate the festival with local people. The given itinerary is nearby Kathmandu non-touristic area, however we can celebrate in Kathmandu as well.