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Nepal: Towards A More Humane Dashain Festival

Nepal's biggest religious festival Dashain will bid farewell for this year on October 3rd, Saturday. The day which celebrates the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, is also known as Kojagrat Purnima. It marks the end of the fifteen day long festivities.

Hindupad, a blog on Hinduism, explains the significance of various days of Dashain:

“On the first day of Dashain, Ghatasthapana puja is observed and ‘Dashain Ghar’ or a special puja room is decorated. During Dasain, Saptamatrikas (7 divine Mothers), Ashtamatrikas (8 tantrik Goddesses) and Nava Durga Goddesses (9 aspects of Durga) are worshiped. Barley or paddy is sowed on earthen pots (ghata) and after ten days the seeds get sprouted. It marks the good harvest. All non-resident Nepalese return to their country to celebrate the festival of Dashain.”

During the final five days of the festival, people receive the sprouts called jamara from elders as goddess Durga's blessings along with tika (rice grains mixed with vermilion power and yogurt).

Jamara planted for Dashain,Photo by Bhumika Ghimire

Jamara planted for Dashain, Photo by Bhumika Ghimire

A Sanskrit hymn is chanted when elders give the jamara and tika. For men the hymn is “‘Aayu Drona Sute” and for women it is “Jayanti mangala kali” .

Nepaleselaw explains the meaning of the first line of “Aaayn Drona Sute”:

“The actual meaning of ‘Aayu Drona Sute’ means May you have a long life like Son of Drona. The Son of Drona is called Asosthama, which is considered to be one of the Aastha Chiranjivi (Aastha Chiranjivi means those eight people who never die as per Hindu epics). Therefore, when our parents bless us saying ‘Aayu Drona Sute’, that means let my children have long life like Asosthama………that means you never die”

The hymn also wishes for prosperity, destruction of enemies and fame. Jayanti mangala kali, on the other hand, praises the goddess but makes no worldly wish.

For the Nepalese diaspora Dashian is especially a poignant time. Missing home, family and friends they try to organize celebrations in diaspora. The occasion provides them a chance to meet other Nepalese, procrastinate about home and have some good time together.

Bhumika, after receiving tika and jamara

Bhumika, after receiving tika and jamara

RangeenChara, a Nepalese diaspora blog, describes Dashain celebrations outside Nepal. Dashain is also a festival with its own “theme tune”. Malshri tune is played during the festival, which is considered as auspicious.

Here is the Nepalese musical group Sur-Sudha with the piece Malshri.

This year's Dashain in Nepal was a bit controversial, with animal rights activists calling for an end to the tradition of animal sacrifice during the festival. Goats, sheep, buffaloes and even chickens are ritually sacrificed as an offering to the goddess.

AnimalRightsNepal calls for a more humane Dashain:

“Hindu religious book speaks for preserving planet and all living creature for better world so stop killing animals and sacrificing animals name of God. Celebrate Dashain without blood and meat. Save animals, save ecosystem.”

Various groups, including those promoting a more peaceful Nepal, have banded together to ban animal sacrifice in the country. So far, the public's reaction has been positive but there have been no official statement on the issue.

Even with controversies, different religious persuasion or difficult political and economic situation in Nepal, Dashain is celebrated as a joyous occasion and continues to be a festival that brings people together.

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