Vijaya Dashami or Dashain Festival in Nepal marks the beginning of the spring and joyous period in the country. Fifteen day-long hauls of Dashain is a period of gathering, companionship, feasts, and blessings. Starting mid-September and ending in early October, the festival of Dashain's a predominantly Hindu festival celebrated by people of all ethnicities. The festival kicks off after the moonless night of Ashoj and ends on a full moon day of the same month. During, this period of waxing moon people make puja rounds of Nine Durga temples, get tikas from elders, fly kites, enjoy cards, and bamboo swings.
Dashain pictures from Google search boxes to photo albums on Nepali phones, consist of people engaging in various activities. The photos can range anywhere from the ritualistic plantation of Jamara to kids dressed in new clothes. The key reasons for people paying homages, dressing in new clothes, enjoying the festivity, and indulging in picture sessions - stems from an ancient legend. The Dashain Festival in Nepal is a celebration of goddesses triumph over evil. The festival finds its roots in the defeat of Buffalo riding monster Mahisashura by Goddess Durga. Every year sacrificial offering and homages to divine energy are paid in form of puja and devotion.
Dashain is an amalgamation of traditions from day one up until the last day of celebration. Up until the end of the festival, people engage in a range of ritualistic practices with special celebrations on the first, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and fifteenth day.
Sanskrit word Ghatasthapana stands for the establishment of a Ghata(earthen pot). The female members who have previously conceived a male child and the head male of the family prepare for the puja during the first day or Ghatasthapana day. The head male takes the lead in the puja and starts decorating either a Ghata (earthen pot) or a Kalash (metal pot). Water is filled, flowers are installed, and petals get sprinkled on the top as initial decoration. Cow dung along with seeds of barely or maize decorate the outer portion. Further, it is decorated with pieces of red and white cloth called Dhwaja.
A pair of beetle nut, sandalwood paste, colored powder, leaves, and coins are placed outside before surrounding Ghat with sand, cow dung patches, and seed for allowing the growth of saplings. These newly nurtured sapling planted with the Ghata are used as offerings in the Tika ceremony later on the tenth day of the Dashain festival. After completion of puja and Ghata placement, a sesame oil lamp is burned to invoke the goddess. The oil lamp is constantly left burning until the end of Dashain for receiving holy blessings. The seed planted for Jamara is watered only until the tenth day.
Seventh-day of Dashain holds special importance in the country. A three-day-long journey of over 170 kilometers is made by the royal priests of the Shah family for bringing the auspicious Fulpati to Kathmandu. It is paraded with a welcome ceremony from Army in the Tundikhel expanse and then taken to King’s Durbar. The ceremonial procession of Fulpati held in the Dashain festival is now overlooked by the President after the installation of democracy in the country. The Royal Kalash, Jamara, and other important ritual items are brought to Kathmandu and looked after by the president’s office.
Asthami means eighth in the Sanskrit dictionary and it’s the eighth day of Vijaya Dashami in Nepal. The eighth day marks the official initiation of sacrifice in the Hindus communities of Terai and hills. The offering of animals is made in temples and ancestral gods of people. Animals and birds like goat, chicken, sheep, duck, buffaloes, and Chyangra (Himalayan goat) are slaughtered. The slaughtered animals are then distributed among the blood relatives as holy offerings to feast. The night on the 8th day of Dashain is considered Kaal Ratri (dark night), the night of the fierce black form of goddess Durga. Goddess kali is offered the sacrifice of 8 buffaloes and 108 goats inside all Durbar Squares of Kathmandu.
On the ninth day of Nawami, Newar people around the country start offering sacrifices to ancestral gods, their newly bought vehicles, and temples. It’s the day when the Taleju courtyard in Kathmandu Durbar Square is opened for the public. The blood carpets the Taleju Chowk inside the Durbar Square as a sacrifice to appease the gods continue throughout mid-day. Nepalese flock with pujas and offerings to the Taleju temples in huge lines around the three famous durbar squares of the valley. All Nepal families feast on goat meat delicacies during this day and Newar homes are busy in preparation for Syako Tyako feast with immediate blood relatives.
The tenth day is the mark of victory of goddess Durga over Mahishasura. People in the family cleanse themselves with a bath to pray before their ancestral or clan gods. Subsequently, the head of the family gathers up everyone in the home to offer tika and blessings. The red tika made up of rice grains and powdered cinnabar is put upon the forehead and Jamara(Saplings planted on ghata) is placed on ears by the elder blessing to their children and relatives. The Newar community celebrates it with a difference as Black Mohani Sinha (tika), orange cinnabar, and yellow cinnabar decorate their forehead along with red tika. Dashain festival is called Mohani among Newars because of the Mohani tika which carries spiritual and ancestral importance value among them
The Full moon day of Ashoj month also happens to be the final day of the Dashain festival in Nepal. The feasts and celebrations are on the final day, as people prepare to head back to normal days. The sun-dried meat of animals sacrificed on the eighth and ninth day is brought as an offering to Goddess Laxmi. The jamara and puaj are offered along with the sun-dried meat for blessings of wealth and prosperity, Devotees looking for the highest amount of blessings wake up through the night to refill the oil lamp placed in the goddess’s name. Since the devotees wake up throughout the night, it is called Kojagrat