Dashain 15 – 26 October 2020

Dashain 15 – 26 October 2020

Dashain (pronounced Dasai, or Badadasai and generally known as Bijaya Dashami) is the longest and most auspicious festival in Nepal; celebrated by the Hindu community of Nepal and ethnic people of Sikkim, Assam, and Darjeeling (Nth India). Where possible Nepali people will return to their homes during the festival.

Dashain is usually celebrated over a 10-day (can be as much as 15 days dependant on lunar cycles) period in September and October. The festival starts from Shukla Paksha (the bright lunar fortnight) and ends on the day of Poornima (full moon). This year (2020), the festival will start 17 Oct and culminate on 26 Oct.  In brief the festival of Dashain is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil; the successful conquest of evil demons by the Hindu Gods and specifically the success of the Goddess Durga (God of Power).

In Hindu mythology the Goddess Durga was victorious over an evil demon named Mahisasur, who was intent on spreading horror and terror in Devaloka (the world where the Gods reside).  The first nine days of Dashain represent the long battle between the different manifestations of Goddess Durga’ and God Mahisasur; while the tenth day symbolises the final victory of the Goddess Durga’ and the demise of Mahisasur, the demon. Their struggle, and the triumph of good over evil, is also represented in the Ramayana (one of the Great Hindu ‘epics’) and depicted as God Ram’s defeat of Demon Ravana following his abduction of Ram’s wife Sita. The culmination of that battle, which also occurred on the tenth day, is more commonly celebrated as Divali in the Hindu Religious calendar.

The below is how Dashain is celebrated and marked at the Gurkha Units here in the UK.

SAT 17 OCT-JAMERA AUNSI

(1st Day)

Marks the beginning of Dashain and the start of puja (worship) in the temple. On behalf of the Bn, the puja is conducted by the GM, the Pundit (Religious teacher), a Gurkha Officer and representatives from each Coy (known as the Pujari Team). They live in the Temple, abstain from alcohol and are forbidden from consuming any contaminated food and meat products; preparing all of their own food on site.

 

SUN 18 OCT – GHATASTHAPANA

 (2nd Day)

On the second day a mixture of barley and maize seeds are sowed and cultivated over the next ten days. The resulting grasses are harvested on the tenth day, Tika, and used as part of the blessings given on that day to all individuals. A goat (in the UK a representation is used) is sacrificed on the day to mark the occasion of Ghatsthapana. Traditionally all members of the unit will be present to witness the sacrifice.

 

FRI 23 OCT – PHULPATI

(7nd Day)

Phulpati literally means flowers, leaves and plants. ‘Bringing Phulpati’, brings all the nine goddesses into your home. Each of the nine plants represent a goddess – collectively taken to represent Health, Wealth and Prosperity.  Entering a ‘Phulpati home’ is to enter into Health, Wealth and Prosperity.

A goat is sacrificed on the day to mark the event and bless the Phulpati.

 

SAT 24 OCT – KALARATRI

(THE DARK NIGHT)

Kalaratri is the seventh of the nine forms of the Goddess Durga, collectively known as the Navadurga. The seventh day of Navratri puja (Hindu prayer ritual) is dedicated to the Goddess Durga when her manifestation is considered her fiercest form; her appearance itself invoking fear. This form of the Goddess Durga is believed to be the destroyer of all demon entities, ghosts, spirits and negative energies, who flee upon knowing of her arrival.  Traditionally all members of the Bn gather for an evening of entertainment to celebrate the event.

 

SUN 25 OCT – MAHANAWAMI

(9th Day)

Mahanawami is the day of sacrifice.  After prayers multiple goats are sacrificed using a large ceremonial Khukri.  It is considered to be good luck for the sacrafices to made in on eclean stroke of the Khukri. Following the sacrifice Coy reps will utilise the sacrificed animal blood to worship and bless the Coy’s weapons and optics. This day is also known as the ‘demon-hunting day’ because members of the defeated demon army strive to save themselves by hiding in the bodies of animals and fowls. The Commanding Officer rewards the man who slays the goats (and be extension the demons) with a monetary gift and a white Pagari (head covering).

 

MON 26 OCT – BIJAYA DASHAMI

(10th Day)

On this day, the Bn assembles at the Temple where the Pundit and GM present each man with a Tika and bless them with ‘abundance’ for the upcoming years. The red paint (placed on the forehead of the individual) symbolises the blood whilst the white paint symbolises peace and the ties that bond the family together. Elders bestow blessings on younger relatives and gift Dakshina (a small amount of money). This continues to be observed until the full moon, allowing for relatives to visit each other in order to exchange gifts and greetings. The ritual of ‘taking Tika’ from elder relatives (even the distant relatives) is deeply emotive and fundamental in the renewal of community and family ties.  The vigour and enthusiasm with which this period is celebrated indicative of the importance placed upon it.

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