History | Story Behind Celebrating Dashain Festival in Nepal
History/Story Behind Celebrating Dashain: – Dashain is one of the greatest Hindu festival celebrated with the family, friends, and relatives. This festival is one of the auspicious and greatest festivals of Nepalese. There is no any doubt that every festival has its own sign of its celebration. This significance takes us back to the history and makes us aware of the reason for its celebration.There are several myths attached to the reason of celebrating every festival and so is the case of Dashain.
Dashain, an auspicious festival portrays its own significance and is celebrated with joy, happiness, and love. Dashain is celebrated almost for 15 days in the total beginning from the very first-day “Ghatasthapana” and ending on “Purnima”. It is the longest and auspicious festival celebrated by Nepalese people which fall in Aswin or Kartik month of the bikram sambat calendar and in September or October as per the English calendar, starting from the Shukla Paksha (bright lunar fortnight) and ending on Purnima ( full moon).
It is the most auspicious festival celebrated by the Nepalese people with their family. Nepalese people celebrate Dashain with their family and relatives for almost 14 – 15 days. Among the fifteen days on which it is celebrated, the most important days are the first, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth. Day 1 is celebrated as “Ghatasthapana”, day 7 is celebrated as “Fulpati”, the 8th day is celebrated as “Mahaastami” and 9th day is celebrated as “Mahanawami”. The next day or 10th day is celebrated as “Vijayadashami”. On this day, the elders put tika on their juniors and bless them with all the love. The blessing is given for the victory over the evil that exists within oneself and engraves the goodness within oneself.
On this auspicious occasion, the celebration takes place with the family members, friends, and relatives. Therefore the vacation is provided to all the Nepalese people for the celebration. All the government, private offices, educational institutions remain closed during this auspicious festival to celebrate the festival together with the family, friends, and relatives.
Dashain is celebrated because of several myths attached to it and celebrated by the people from Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar) i.e Burmese Gurkhas and north Indian hills states of Sikkim, Assam and Darjeeling state besides Nepalese people. These people celebrate the festival with their own beliefs and cultures.
Dashain is celebrated in the Bengali culture in a different way naming it as “Durga Puja”. Durga Puja is the greatest festival for the Bengali people, residing in the Indian subcontinent. Durga Puja is the celebration of the victory of good over the evil. The goddess Durga fought the battle with the shape-shifting, deceptive and powerful buffalo demon “Mahishasura” for almost nine days and won the battle on the tenth day. Thus, the festival symbolizes the victory of Good over Evil and also marks the power of the motherly power over the evil. The Durga Puja festival dates always overlaps with the date of the day observed as Vijayadashami (Dussehra) by other traditions of Hinduism. This festival is celebrated in different places wherein most of the place, the Ram Lila is enacted in the form of drama. The drama also shows the victory of Lord Rama by killing the king of a devil, Ravana. To celebrate the victory over evil, the effigies of the demon Ravana is burned and the celebration takes place.
Mohani is one of the important festivals which is celebrated among the Newars that includes family gatherings, visiting various pilgrimages and so on. Mohani is equivalent to the biggest festival “Dashain” and there exist different similarities as well as dissimilarities too with the festival Dashain.
Dashain, an auspicious occasion is celebrated for almost 14-15 days.
The first day i.e. Day 1 is Ghatasthapana:
Ghaṭasthāpanā is the beginning of the great auspicious festival, Dashain. If we go through the literal meaning then the word “ghahtasthapana” symbolizes the placing of a pot or Kalash. This pot or Kalash symbolizes the goddess Durga. This day is the day of sowing seeds which will ultimately grow as jamara for the tenth day. The Kalash is then filled up with the holy water and is then kept covered with the cow dung. The barley seeds are sown in this pot.Then the Kalash is put in the center of a rectangular shape formed on the floor filled with sand. Now the remaining sand in the floor is also sown with the barley seeds. After this procedure, the priest then starts to do the puja by requesting blessings from Durga to bless the vessel with her presence. Generally, this ritual is performed by predetermining the specific time which is auspicious and the time is predetermined by astrologers. It is the belief of the people that the goddess resides in the vessel during the period of the Navaratri.
In every house, the room where all these rituals are performed is known as the Dashain Ghar. Traditionally it is believed that the outsiders and women should not be allowed to enter it. Normally, the male member of the family worships the Kalash twice every day, once in the morning and again in the evening. But with the broadening of the thoughts of the people and perception of the people, women are also given the chance to worship Kalash and enter the Dashain Ghar room. The Kalash is kept away from direct sunlight and holy water is offered to it every day, so that the seed is grown as long yellow grass that is five to six inch long by the tenth day of the festival. This sacred grass is now known as jamara. This ritual is continued until the seventh day.
The 7th day i.e. Day 7 is Phulpati
Phulpati is the seventh day of the auspicious festival Navaratri which is also celebrated traditionally.
Therefore, on this day of phulpati, the royal Kalash, banana stalks, Jamara, and sugar cane tied with red cloth is brought by Brahmins from Gorkha, a three-day walk, about 169 kilometers (105 mi) away from the Kathmandu Valley. On this particular day, hundreds of government officials gather together in the Tundikhel ground in the conventional formal dress i.e. daurasuruwal for male and saree for a female to witness the event. In the past decades, the king used to observe the ceremony in Tundikhel while the Phulpati parade was headed towards the Hanuman Dhoka royal palace.Then there is also the display of the Nepalese Army with their various skills that includes firing of weapons for honoring of phulpati for almost 10 – 15 minutes. After the honoring program, the Phulpati is taken to the Hanuman Dhoka Royal Palace. Till this time or by the time the occasion ends in Tundikhel, the phulpati should be taken to the hanuman dhoka palace.
As per the history, since 2008, when the royal family was overthrown, the two-century-old tradition is changed. Now the holy offering and honored phulpati are taken to the residence of president instead of the hanuman dhoka palace. After the overthrown of a royal family, the President has undertaken the religious as well as the social role, after the fall of the royal government.
The 8th day i.e. Day 8 is ‘MahaAsthami”
The eighth day of the auspicious festival is called “mahaastami”. This is the day of the one of the manifestation of goddess Durga i.e. kali, a blood thirsty manifestation. This is the most fierce manifestation of goddess Durga. On this day, kali is appeased through the blood by sacrificing different animals like buffaloes, goats, hens, and ducks in temples throughout the country. Blood is considered as the symbol of the fertility thus is offered to the Goddesses Durga in the form of kali. On this day, several other goddesses are also worshipped apart from kali. This particular night of the day is called KalRatri (Black Night).
This is the day where the buffaloes are sacrificed in the courtyards of the land revenue office all over the country. On this particular day, the old palace in Basantapur Hanuman Dhoka is opened throughout the night as the worshippings and sacrifices take place in every courtyard of the palaces. It is said that on the midnight of this specific day of mahaastami, in the Dashain Ghar a total of 54 buffaloes and 54 goats are sacrificed as the part of the rites and rituals. After the sacrifices and offerings of the blood, the meat is taken home as a Prasad and cooked as “prasad” i.e. food blessed by divinity.
After cooking Prasad, this food is offered in tiny leaf plates to the household Gods, then distributed amongst the family. The food is considered as divine and auspicious and therefore the food is taken as Prasad by all the members of the family. The other part of this night is carried out in the homes of common people i.e. feasts are held while the puja is being carried out in the palaces. Mostly the feasts are organized on the homes of “newar” community and on this day only, “newar” community celebrates “khadga puja” which is the worshipping of their weapons.
The 9th day i.e. Day 9 is ‘Mahanawami”
The next day after “mahaastami” is the day of “mahanawami” i.e. the ninth day of Dashain is called Mahanavami, “the great ninth day”. This is the last day of celebratingNawaratri. Generally, on this day, the other sacrifice is held in the tone of the palace within the Hanuman dhoka royal palace, the kot courtyard, and the ritual are witnessed by the official military. On this very day, there is also the sacrifice of the number of buffaloes with the salute made through the gunfire. This day is also known as the demon-hunting day as the members from the army of the demon which is defeated and these armies try to save themselves hiding in the bodies of animals.
On Mahanawami, the god of creation i.e. Vishwakarma baba is worshipped and apart from the god, the machines, tools, equipment and vehicles are also worshipped as these all are the creation of the god of creation, Vishwa karma baba. On this day, people worship their tools, equipment, machines, and vehicles offering and sacrificing the blood of animals. It is also believed that if the vehicles are worshipped on this day, then the vehicles are able to prevent accidents for all the remaining year. Therefore, the vehicles like truck, motorbikes, car are worshipped on this day so that the accident is avoided for the whole year.
On this particular day, the gates of the taleju temple are opened, once in a year for the general public. Therefore, thousands of people visit this temple for worshipping the goddess and for the whole day, the temple is crowded with the people as the day comes just once in a year all along.
The 10th day i.e. Day10 is “Vijayadashami”
The tenth day of the festival is the ‘Vijayadashami’ or also known as “badadashain”. On this day, “tika” is put on the forehead of the younger ones by the elder one of the family and also the relatives. On this day of Dashain, tika is prepared by the women of the family by the mixture of rice, yogurt, and vermilion. This preparation is generally done in the morning time. Every year, the time of putting tika to the younger one differs as the determination of the auspicious time is made as per the strology. The barley seeds which were sown on the first day of Dashain i.e. ghatasthapana is grown up into the plant now and the plant is now called as “jamara”.
The elders put tika on the forehead of the younger ones along with jamara and bless them with lots of love for the good luck and prosperity. The red color of the vermillion powder signifies the blood relation that strongly binds the family members together hence signifying unity. The Elders also gives a certain amount of money to the younger ones along with the blessings i.e. “Dakshina”. The rites of putting tika are observed for a total of five days i.e. from the day of Vijayadashami to the day of kojagrat Purnima. During these days younger relatives visit the elder relatives home to have the tika and also to get the blessings of their prosperity.
This ritual is observed continuously for the five days until the day of full moon. Up to this day, the relatives visit each other and exchange the gifts and greetings. This ritual has provided the reason for gatherings and get together of the relatives; even the distant relatives also visits the other relative’s homes to have the tika and blessings. This has evident the unity and bonding of the family and also proves that the distance does not matter in the relationship. This can also be taken into consideration as a reason that the excitement of celebrating this festival is so much enthusiastic and fun. Therefore, the member who is out of the city or the country also visits their house for the celebration.
When there was the existence of monarchy system in Nepal, the Nepalese people used to receive tika even from the King and queen as the king and queen of Nepal were assumed to be the incarnation or the form of the Lord Vishnu and Goddess Laxmi. Not only the public but also the ministers and diplomats used to visit the royal narayanhiti palace for receiving tika from the king and queen. With the downfall of the monarchy system, this trend or ritual is continued by the president of the country. In the present context, the public, ministers, and diplomats receive the tika on their forehead from the president.
This is how the day of Vijayadashami is celebrated by the Nepalese people.
The 15h day i.e. Day15 is “Kojagrat Purnima”
The last day of the festival is called ‘Kojagrata’ Purnima as this day falls on the full moon as per the astrological calendar. The literature meaning of Kojagrata is ‘who is awake’ and the meaning of Purnima is “full moon”. On this specific day of the festival, the goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth is worshipped as it is believed mythologically that generally on this day goddess Laxmi descends on the earth and showers with the blessings along with the wealth and prosperity to the devotees who are wake up at all the night. On this day, people enjoy by playing cards and organizing get together with the relatives and so on.
In this way, the important days of the festival are celebrated. People enjoy the get-together, gatherings, flying kites and enjoying the non- veg items. Through these means, the people enjoy the festivals with joy, fun and also the blessings of elderly relatives.
There are several stories related to the celebration of this greatest festival. Let’s start with the first story that is included as per the mythological series “Ramayana”.
The story behind the celebration of the auspicious festival “Dashain”
- Story from series “Ramayana”
Though there are several tales attached to the celebration of the greatest Hindu festival, Dashain. This auspicious and greatest Hindu festival is the reason to celebrate the bonding and togetherness with the family. This festival also is the reason for the celebration of the victory of the good over the evil if we try to look back at the mythological period. The Dashain which also is celebrated and called as “Dussehra” and is also celebrated as Durga puja by Bengali people. This festival holds its tale back to the history of “treat yug”.
As per this mythology, the king of Ayodhya was Lord Rama, an honorable and philosophical king. His wife was Devi Sita, the princess of a king of Janakpur. King Rama was sent for the exile period of 14 years because of the promise made by his father, Dasharatha to his second wife kaikeyi. Lord Rama and Devi Sita went to the different forest during their exile period along with the brother, Laxman. Devi Sita, during their exile period of 14 years, was kidnapped by the demon, Ravana who was smitten by the beauty of devisita.
This led to the battle between Lord Rama and demon Ravana. It is generally said that Lord Rama was able to defeat demon Ravana after worshipping goddess Durga and receiving her blessings. It is generally said in the mythological epic ‘ramayana’ that Lord Rama worshipped Goddess Durga Bhawani for altogether nine days before the demon Ravana was killed. Because of this reason, the goddess Durga is worshipped for total nine days until the day of “mahanawami”. On the tenth day, the victory of Lord Rama is celebrated as “Vijayadashami”.
The blessings of goddess Durga made Lord Rama win the battle. The day Lord Rama defeated demon Ravana was celebrated and since the time immemorial, this particular day is been celebrated as Dashain. The day is celebrated for the victory of good over the evil. Therefore on this auspicious festival, the blessings are given to the juniors for getting victory over all the evils that is within oneself and engrave all the good qualities within oneself.
Therefore, this auspicious festival is celebrated as the victory of good over the evil and this is evident from the mythological series “Ramayana”.
The story of goddess Durga killing Mahisasura
The next story is also related to the celebration of Dashain festival. This story is of the demon with the head of buffalo and the body of the human because of this feature also, the demon was known as “Mahishasura”.The word “Mahishasura” comprise of two words “mahis” and “asura”, where the word “Mahis” means buffalo and “asura” means demon. The demon “Mahishasura” acquired the great and heavy powers by practicing the hard penance and praying. Though he gained the powers, he misused those powers and started to rebel against the god with lots of conspiracy. This action of the demon enraged the gods and the gods were also threatened with the existence.
Therefore, the Gods then approached the Trimurti.e. Brahma (the god of creation or the creator); Vishnu and the Maheshwar (the god of destruction) to help them from the demons. Then Goddess Durga was created with the combination of the power of all the Gods in the world and hence she was considered the most powerful Goddess of all god.Ultimately, the battle was started.The battle between the Goddess Durga and Mahishasura went on almost for nine days and nine nights. And finally, on the day of Vijayadashami, mahishasura was killed by goddess Durga. Dashain is also celebrated to celebrate the victory of the Goddess. Therefore the celebration took place on this particular day for the victory of good over the evil.
From this particular day, every year the day is celebrated as the victory of good over evil. The blessings are given to the junior with the victory of good over evil. In this day, the elders put tika on the younger ones and bless them with lots of love.Hence, the great auspicious festival Dashain is celebrated with the joy and happiness of getting the victory over the evil.
The first nine days of the battle represents the battle between the different manifestations of the goddess Durga and the demon “mahishasura”. The tenth day is the final day on which the goddess durgagot victory over the demon “mahishasura”.
Worship of the Shami tree
This is the next story that is also attached to the celebration of the Dashain festival. The above stories or tales are related to the different mythological epic like Ramayana, Shiva Puran and so on. The tale that is attached to the shami tree is now originated from the another great Hindu epic, Mahabharata.
Mahabharata also takes us back to the different yug, the yug of Lord Shree Krishna, i.e. “dwaparyug”. As in the epic ‘ramayana”, here also as per the other Hindu epic “Mahabharat”, the Pandavas were sent to the exile period of 12 years in the forest. Apart from the 12 years in the forest, they were also to spend one another period of exile by disguising themselves as the different person. This exile period was a deal made by the Pandavas and Kauravas while playing the game of gambling (Chaucer) in which Pandavas lost because of the conspiracy of Kauravas.
Thus they were banished from their own kingdom by the Kauravas. The Kauravas had also threaten pandavas that they will be killed if recognized by Kauravas during the disguise period. Therefore, they planned to spend the last year of their exile period in disguise in “birat’ Pradesh. Since “Pandavas’ were to remain in disguise and did not want any other to know about their recognition, they hide their divine and powerful weapons under the tree. The tree under which weapons were hidden was “shami’ tree.
After finishing their exile period of remaining in disguise, the ‘pandavas’ came back under the same tree of ‘shami’. The Pandavas worshipped the goddess Durga on this day and fetched the weapons from the tree. After fetching the weapon from the tree, they directly went to the battleground for the war with the Kauravas and gained the victory over the “Kauravas”. After achieving the victory on the Kauravas, here who are the evils, they were able to get their kingdom. Therefore, the day is celebrated as the victory over the evil by the good and the celebration was made all over the kingdom. From this day, the day is celebrated as ‘vijayadashami’ by the Hindu people and is also celebrated till date.
These are the stories that are the reason behind the celebration of the great and auspicious Hindu festival. The great festival “Dashain” is also celebrated during the Chaitra month of Nepali calendar. Hence is also known as, “Chaitra Dashain’. The day after the “Chaitra Dashain” is also celebrated as the birthday of Lord Rama i.e. “Ram Navami”. In the past, people used to celebrate the Dashain as “BadaDashain” during this time. But as the Dashain falls on the summer season, due to heavy fooding habit of people, they start to suffer from the numbers of health problems. Hence, the festival is moved to the autumn for the similar celebration.
Therefore, there are numerous reason for celebrating Dashain festivals. Generally, the festivals give the reason to have a get together with the family with the joy and fun. Dashain is the longest and the greatest Hindu festival that is observed by the Nepalese people. The people from India also celebrates naming differently as “dusshera” or ‘durga puja’. The Bengal part of India observes ‘durga puja” during this festival for all together for nine days. The worshipping of goddess Durga is also related to the mythological belief of different “yug” or the time period. Dashain has its own significance and importance.
Dashain is celebrated on the season that arrives immediately after the season of harvesting crops by the farmers. Therefore all the farmers are in the happy mood and the houses of the farmers are filled with the crops and grains. This season and weather of this period are very much pleasant and warm rays of the sun play cupid role in the slightly cold weather. The season and the weather itself calls for a celebration. This is also the reason for some of the people putting tika of rice on the forehead. The people for some reason mix the rice grains with red vermillion powder, curd while the people for some reason mix with just curd and put as tika on their forehead. The rice grains and curd is used to prepare tika that is received by the younger ones from the elder ones. ThePeople generally uses the curd and rice grains because of easy availability of these things in this particular season when Dashain falls.
Therefore Dashain is the great and longest festival celebrated with joy and happiness with family and relatives. This has been celebrated since the mythological period and has its own significance and importance.