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Dashain Festival in Nepal - Himalayan Footsteps

The triumph of good over evil

I have been lucky enough to celebrate Dashain over 10 times in Nepal, and a few of times with the Nepalese ex-pat community in the UK. I’ve seen it through the eyes of different castes (ethnic groups) and celebrated with friends before marriage and with my Nepali in-laws after marriage. My wife and I always try to make it to Nepal for this festival as it is a time when most people are free from work, it’s the longest festival in Nepal, and the sentiment of the festival which is the triumph of good over evil lifts the spirits of even the most unfortunate person.

When is Dashain?

The Dashain festival in Nepal is fifteen days long and the whole country celebrates, government offices and institutions close, school holidays always coincide with the festival and relatives travel home from abroad to be with their families.

Unlike Christmas the dates change every year depending on the lunar calendar but the dates of Dashain usually fall within the months of September and October.

Ways People Celebrate in Nepal

Of course with any religious festival there are is the ceremonial spiritual side and also the other forms of celebration. The ways the Nepalese people make merry are as follows;

“Tass” Playing cards

In my experience this is the most popular activity enjoyed by adults, from respected Headmasters  to hard working Mothers to all but the strictest priests. When dashain starts the cards come out, usually a pack of 4 normal decks shuffled together, one of the most popular games is called Marriage but whatever the game gambling is involved and all part of the fun.

“Ping” Bamboo Swings

Communities come together to build them and often they are more than 20 feet tall! They are temporary especially for the Dashain period and mostly enjoyed by children however during Dashain every person should leave the ground at least once.

“Masu” Eating Meat

Chickens, Goats and Buffaloes are the commonest animals feasted on during Dashain. In a country where eating meat maybe a weekly of monthly occurrence for families you can imagine the joy of having meat nearly everyday. The purchasing and slaughtering of the animal brings the community together.

“Naya Luga” Shopping

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world and at Dashain time they discount heavily for people to be able to purchase clothes and goods for their families. Common gifts from parents to children at Dashain are new clothes.

“Raxi” Drinking

For those who do drink or those who don’t normally drink Dashain becomes the perfect excuse and everybody is happy to see their fiends or family a little merry. Mostly enjoyed with meat snacks large quantities of home-made Millet alcohol are consumed or whiskey amongst the more wealthy.

Changa “Flying Kites”

A benefit of Dashain being in the autumn season is more wind and thousands of children love to fly kites.

The Religious Ceremonies

The goddess Durga in all her manifestations is worshipped in Nepal’s numerous temples and shrines by giving her offerings of fruits and thousands of animal sacrifices drenching the goddess for days in blood. Not all Nepalese people approve of this or watch or take part in this, and if you are a visiting tourist you can easily avoid any hint of blood if you wish.

The tenth day of the festival and the following five days are perhaps the most important time. This period is called Dashami and elders bless their younger relatives by putting tikas on their foreheads and giving them a small amount of money which the children love. Having observed and received this simple act of tika I can really say it bonds the family together.