In Nepal and India, the month of October is filled with festivals and religious celebrations to ward off death and disease, celebrate the victory of good over evil, and honor friendships and family connections. The most important festival is Dashain.
Dashain, Nepal’s biggest festival
The Dashain festival lasts two weeks. It brings entire communities together and many families and friends who have migrated to other countries return for a few weeks to join in the celebration. This Hindu festival is also called Nauratha or Durga Puja festival, and it is celebrated in some areas of India by the Nepalese immigrants who live and work there.
A divine fight to make the good triumph
In the Hindu tradition of Shaktism, this festival represents the battle between the goddess Maa Durga and the demon Mahishasura who terrorized the kingdom of the gods (Devaloka). After nine days of fierce fighting, Durga finally killed the demon and freed the world from its threat. Dashain, which refers to both the festival and the name of the tenth day, represents the victory of good over evil.
Similarly, in the mythical Sanskrit epic Ramayana, this festival celebrates the victory of the god-king Rama over the demon Ravana, who had abducted and seduced Sita, Rama’s wife.. After a grueling battle between the armies of monkeys and demons, King Rama triumphed over Ravana and this story illustrates dharma, a key concept in Hinduism.
The performance of religious and cultural rites
During these festivities, Nepalese people increase their prayers, sacrifices, offerings, and religious rituals, which are intended to honor the gods and attract their favor and blessings. Houses are first cleaned, then decorated with candles and lights. People buy or sew new clothes and gather together during the numerous fairs that enliven towns and villages.
Large bamboo swings, called ping, are built a few days before Dashain starts, then dismantled a few weeks later at the end of the Tihar festival. During this time colorful kites fill the sky, traditionally intended as a way to ask the gods to stop sending rain at the end of the monsoons.
Fifteen days of celebration
The fifteen days of Dashain are devoted to prayers and offerings to the different goddesses in the hope of gaining their favors. But family and friend reunions are also an essential part of this holiday. The whole country vibrates to the rhythm of the festivities and traditional activities such as card games, the application of tika (a mix of yogurt, rice, and vermillion pigments) on the foreheads of the youngest children., and prayersoffered in Taleju temple, located in Kathmandu.
Limiting animal suffering while preserving culture
The Dashain festival is marked by many activities and customs, but the extensive sacrifices of tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of animals have caused outrage among animal rights activists every year. Some people, especially among the younger generation, are beginning to replace animal sacrifices with food offerings such as coconuts or pumpkins. While some activists denounce this violent practice and wish to abolish it, others suggest better supervision when the animals are slaughtered. Nevertheless, the balance between tradition, cultural preservation, and animal welfare remains elusive.
Celebrating Dashain at Karuna
Dashain is not limited to friends and family: colleagues often host games at work. Karuna-Shechen teams in Nepal celebrated by engaging in the traditional activities of board games and kite making. This convivial moment was an opportunity to strengthen the team’s ties during these days of national celebration.