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Festivals in Nepal

Nepal is not only the land of mountains; it is also the land of festivals. There are more than 50 festivals celebrated in Nepal every year. While the national festivals have fixed dates, religious festivals are set by astrologers following the lunar calendar. The best part about the festivals in Nepal is that all the events are celebrated with the same enthusiasm and galore the way it used to be hundreds of years ago when people had no other means of entertainment.

New Year: It is known as “Navavarsha” in Nepal. Nepal has its official calendar that begins from the first day of the first month Baisakh. This very first day is observed as Nepali New Year which usually falls in the second week of April. People go for picnics, have get-togethers and celebrate the day socializing in various ways as this day is also a national holiday.

 

Lhosar (Tibetan New Year): This is the New Year of the Tibetans and Sherpas of Nepal which falls in February. The Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath are decorated with eye catching colorful prayer flags pulling the crowd. The people perform their traditional dances and welcome their New Year with feasts and family gatherings wearing all the new clothes and finest jewelries and exchanging gifts.

Saraswati Puja: Saraswati Puja or Shree Panchami is a day to celebrate the birthday of Saraswati – the Goddess of Learning. This is a day when people from school students to scholars worship their pens and books to please the Goddess and expect her favor in their studies so they become wise and knowledgeable. People also throng around the idol of Goddess Saraswati, especially in Swayambhunath and offer flowers, sweets, fruits, etc. On this day, small children are taught to read and write and people write on the stones and slabs with chalks and pencils. This day which falls between January/February is regarded as a very auspicious day for marriages too as it is believed that Goddess Saraswati herself blesses the couples. Normally it is the astrologers who fix the marriage date and time in Nepal.

Shivaratri (Maha Shivaratri): Shivaratri or the night of Lord Shiva that falls sometime between February/March is one of the major festivals of Nepal. This day is dedicated to the Lord of the Lords – Lord Shiva or Mahadev who lived in Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas. Lord Shiva is the most worshipped God in the Hindu religion. More than 100,000 of Hindu devotees from India and Southeast Asia throng weeks ahead of the festival and gather in and around Pashupatinath temple – one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus in Kathmandu to pay their homage to Lord Shiva on his birthday. “Pashupatinath” literally means “the Lord of animals” as Lord Shiva is considered as the guardian and protector of everything that exists in the Himalayan Kingdom. On this holy day, worshippers take dip and bath in the holy river at early dawn and fast for the whole day and stay around fire to keep them warm as it is still winter in Nepal. The devotees also freely indulge in using marijuana and other intoxicating substances as these things are believed to please Lord Shiva and marijuana use is legal only on this sacred day. More ...

Holi: This festival of water and colors that falls between February/March is also known as “Phagu” in Nepal. This day is observed to rejoice the extermination of female demon Holika who together with her King brother conspired to kill his son Pralhad, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This day, playful people especially the young ones wander through the streets in groups on foot or vehicles with various colors smeared all over them and the people in houses make merry throwing colors and water balloons at each other and also to these people on the streets.

Ghode Jatra (Festival of Horses): This festival takes place between March/April and a grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel. Although this festival does not have much of religious aspects, a large number of people, even from outside Kathmandu flock around Kathmandu to witness the horse race and other exciting sports activities performed by the Army in the presence of the King and the Royal family.

Buddha Jayanti: Buddha’s birth anniversary is celebrated every year during May in Nepal. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath and Boudhanath to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s birth place in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went in search of enlightenment.

Gai Jatra (Cow Festival): This festival of cow is celebrated every year in August/September. This is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal as it is full of humor, satire, comedy, mockery and shades of sadness too at the same time. And on this day satires and jokes on anybody is legal. As per the tradition, the family who has lost a relative during the past one year must take part in a procession by sending young boys in cow like attire and walk through the streets of Kathmandu lead by a cow. Cow is regarded as a Goddess and it is also the national animal of Nepal. This festival also purges many who have lost their loved ones as they get to console themselves as to they are not the only ones who have been bereaved and it also teaches to accept death as a part of life.

Krishna Janmastami: The birth anniversary of Lord Sri Krishna, believed to be the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu falls sometime in August/September. All the devotees assemble in Krishna Mandir, the ancient Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square and other temples with the idol of Sri Krishna and offer prayers, flowers, food, sweets and chant hymns too.

  Manirimdu Festival

Manirimdu is considered as one of the important of the Sherpas of Nepal Himalayan region. This is observed in the month of October or November. In solu this is observed at Chiwang monastery located at an altitude of approximately 10,000 ft above the sea level. This monastery is situated at the top of the hill which takes about 3 hour walk from Phaplu, 4 hour walk from Junbesi and 3 days walk from jiri. Manirimdu is a full scale of exorcism rite and mask dance like dumje. The term manirimduis derived from ' mani ' and 'rildum' which means 'the practice of the mani pills'.However, on this festival, the 13 different dances are performed by the Lamas of the monastery. For this celebration, the Tibetan reincarnated Lama Thulsing Rimpoche of thubtenchholing monastery located north of Junbesi, is requested to preside the ceremony at Chiwang gomba. Majority of the monks of Thubtenchholing monastery participate on this festival. There can be seem crowd of people at Chiwang coming to observe the manirimdu festival.At this time, the sky looks blue, snowcapped mountain i.e.Mt Numbur and Mt Karyalung seems welcoming to the visitors. When this festival begins, the gompa is highly decorated with many ritual items and ingredients. The attendants come with beautiful dresses and ornaments. During the festival, the monks and the Lamas, according to the nature of ritual, seem invoking to the gods, grayer and recitation of hymns goes on; the drum beaters,cymbal players and the horns blowers also go through the Buddhist texts. The different puja is being performed and the different varieties of mask dances are also performed by the monks at the courtyard of the gompa. Altogether, thirteen different dances which symbolize the events, idea individuality, spirituality,nature, devils, bravery, mysticism, and reverence performed. Finally the blessing ceremony begins in which all the present attendants are wished a long spiritual life. This is followed by the acceptance of ritual offerings from the monks and the lay men. Then comes the mass distribution of pills and consecrated water for the longevity of the attendants. Thus this festival ends and the attendants will make a happy return from the monastery.

The same festival is observed at Tyangboche monastery in Khunbu either in October or in November. The monastery is located at an altitude of 13,000ft. high above the sea level. The date of this festival is fixed only after the Tibetan Calendar comes out with the new year festival,losar. In khumbu, the Sherpa reincarnated Lama, Ngawang Zangbu, the abbot of Tyangboche monastery, will preside the manirimdu festival. The whole Sherpa of Khumbu will go to attend the ceremony. The festival environment seems quit idyllic. The monks and the Lama of the monastery perform the similar type of dances performed at chhiwang monastery in Solu. Histrocally, this festival has been connected with bonpo (pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet) and ritually this is centered around Padma Sambhava, one of the foundersof Tibet Buddhism and the father of nying-ma-pa sect. In order to go to Khumbu, most of the people fly from Kathmandu to Lukla and from there they walk up to Tyangboche. It will take 5 days to reach Tyangboche monastery including one day acclimatization in Namche Bazar. The tour will take 11 to 14 days to and from Kathmandu.The tour is organized by the  Apex Trek  & Expedition Pvt. Ltd. based in Kathmandu.

Dumje Festival

In order to observe this festival, one has t go to junbesi village of Soiukhumbu. There are two aiternative routes to go to this village. Accordingly,the village can be reached by Bus from Kathmandu to Jiri which takes about seven hours and from there one should walk for another two days. Alternatively, one can take flight from kathmandu to phaplu, and the rest of the distence can be covered on foot which takes about three and half hours. The village is located at an altitude of 8,800 ft. above the sea level. The villag comprises 37 to42 households. Due to the impact of tourism, the structure of the village has been changed into two section new and old Junbesi.Among the entire Sherpa village of Solu valley, Junbesi valley seems not only beautiful but it is also rich in historicle and culteral traditions.thi is also one f h self reliant ville o Solu. This is characterised by sigle clan-Lama. the whle area is inhabied by the Sherpa. There is an od gompa(village temple) located inside the village where the proposed fstivl is observed for four day in April. The same festival is observed in january at Gompa of the Lamobagar Village (6,500 ft) of Dolakha Distric. In order to observe this festival, the Sherpa come from as for as Lumnang (8100 ft) and Labchi (1220 ft) from the north. Non-Sherpa also come from the south. For approaching the northern region of Dolakha distic, one has to either walk from Charikot or from Barbise. If the trail is followed from Charikot, it takes 6 days to reach Rolwaling and labchi, 4 days to Lamobagar, and 3 days to Bigu. Similarly, people come to observ this festival at Junbesi Gompa from different village of Solu.

The sherpa of Solu observ a number of festival among which dumje is considered as an impportant festival which is observed at Junbesi gompa every year the dumje celebration obsorb the entire energy of the village and all other works rest. From one month earlier, the Sherpas startsaying that the dumje festival is at hand. This means every thing i.e. eatable and drinkable materialsshould be prepared earlier. In order to celebrate this festival, the villager rotationally appoint the four representarives from their own clan group. It is dumje chiwa who is appointed to work for this festival. In Khumbu, the chiwa is known lawa. Working as a chiwa is considered to be a virtully religious act. This is also their social obligation. They are rotationally changed every year. The duty of the representatives is to take the economic burden for celebrating the festival. Besides taking the responsibility, they have to prepare food and drink for the purpose of feeding the festival attendants and Lamas.

A householderr's turn to act as lawa comes approximatelyonce in fourteen years and this is alloted to a household rather than to its individual head(Furer-Haimendorf, 1964: 186). In Junbesi, the chiwa is annually changed within only 145 households of Lama Serwa clan of Solu.In 19856, the informant of Junbesi assumed that one chiwa will spend minimum Rs. 1,500 and maximum Rs. 2000. In Khumbu, one lawa is supposed to spend minimum Rs. 14,000 andmaximum Rs. 20,000. For the management of this festival, the Sherpas of Khumbu select eingt or nine lawa annually. There is no tradition of selecting chiwa or lawa in Lamobagar. According to the tradition of Lamobagar those who take loan from the treasury of gompa, they do commitment to manage the whole expences for dhimju (dumje) festival.While checking the account of gompa there was found seven person taken loan Rs. 450. the sponsor's expenses will be converted nito the intrest of the loan.But, the intrest will not be sufficient for the management of this festival. Therefore, they take ijimba (donation). The Sherpas of Lamobagar do not have sound economy in comparison to the Sherpas of Khumbu and Solu. There are 53 Sherpa households and 21 household of tibetan refugees. Total population of intire village is 225(Sherpa 152, non Sherpa 73).

On this festive occasion, each and every householder has to manage their own food and drinks for themselves and their relatives. The Sherpa observe this festival with joy and gaiety. During the festival, all the children, abult and even elderly are well dresse. Though the major festival befins from the day of sang, some ritual is already perfomed at the gompa with worshipping their clan deites like gombonakpo (Mahankala) and chhokem (Dharmapala). The reason of perfoming this puja is to pecify the deities because they might be angry with the pllution that was made by the man in previous year. Besides, the Sherpa Lamas also take the main torma out from the altar of the gompa on the last day of the last month. Concideering torma as on offering of the gods is provided tohouseholders of Junbesi. For whole seven days earlier befor Dumje (sacred performance) will go though chhyandirphruwa text. The purpose of reading this text is to wish peace andprosperity of the people of the contry, King and country. the first day of the festival known as sang. On this day the Lamas of Junbesigompa eprform a kind of dance which is known as ngawa. The purpose of performing this dance is to worship dharmaas (the protectors) of four direction. While performing this dance, no outsiders are permited to enter into the sanctum of the gompa. It is believed that the outsiders might carry evil spirits along with them. In order to perform the ngawa dance, the lama has to wear the senak (cap), dorkang (a piece of cloth which is worn only on breast), ngachhya (long garb), gyaptar (fhe cloth worn on the back side) and kacha (Tibetan shose).

On the first day of the festival in Lamobagar, the attendants while praying to the gods ward off the evil spirits and bad planets to prevent them from doing potantial harm and to bring in good auspices by offering grains and plainwhite scarf to all the mask dancers considered as the embodiments of divine spirits. The Lamas perform eleven varieties of dances which are known as: a)the dance of acharya, b)syanak,c) gombu, d)thumjen dorje lhakpa, e) syingyong, f) chen, g) hyulsa, h) rhinakchen ki gyelbu, i) lok chham, j)two acharya and k) chhiring chhenga. The same types of dance are on the second day also in Lamobagar. In Lamobagar, the Laamas recite sarkim (libation drink tothe god) texts on the first and second day and read diksya serki puti book on the third day. On the even of the second day, the lamas after having meal try to harass the effigy of tonak chhe me dasor by methods of the rituals. These events often great fun to the attendants. After that the lamas their other assistants go downn to the village, bhainse khola to throw the effigy of tona chhe me dasor.The prupose of throwing this effigy is to drive it away from the village.After completing this ritua,the procession goes back to the gompa again where the lamas will officiate another last ritual known as thotung. The function of this ritual isto drive the remaining spirits away from the village. On the way back to the gompa, the group
are warmlywelcomed by each householders with chhang because they have succesfully returned home driviing the bad spirits away from the village. It alsoexpressed that they are not frightened from soch kinds of spirits at all. While returning from bhanse khola, the triumphant orator says "lingpali khuwi ngyamchhel ", "palisemdo ngar madi ". In its reply, the other group say la kkyure! Again, the orator says "chuk sum kagla matunla ", "dui nakp ralpa siktom ".Again the reply comes la khyure ! This song speaks about the appreciation of the legendary bravery of Dorje of Lhaklung palgi. Thus, the Lama finally concludes the ritual known as tashi solup (blesing ceremony).

In cours of following the ritual of dumje in junbesi, in the evening of the second day, first of all, the Lama blows sangdung (trumpet) from the gompa. The villagers, after listening to the sound, get ready to go to the gompa for observing the dance ceremony.At that time,some monks seen playing musical intruments, some Lama are busy in reciting the texts and while others are preparing for performing dance at the gompa. When the Lama play with kangling (thigtbone horn), the dance is performed by the Lama. The second day of the festival known as chham. By the same evening of the second day, in cours of performing the dance, the Lama exhibit six varities of dance at the gompa. Out of six, the first type of dance sarngim is performed by the four Lamas. The second type of dance, peshyangba, is performed by the two persion. The third type of dance, tyak-tyak, is performed by the four adults and twelve other children with monks. this is a kind of humorous dance. The fourth type of dance is known as, syangdongma,the fifth one is called gombo. The sixth one was not identifid. Out of six varities of dance, the pashyangba dance is very important from the view point of dancer's social status. As local people believe that the peshyangba dance drive the epirits away from the village. An another dance shows how Langdharma, the Bonpo (animistic religion of Tibet) king of Tibet, was assassinated by the disguised monk named Dorje of Lhalung and how he fled away to Amdo. Thus, the Sherpas memorize the events of both Langdharma and Lhalung Palgi Dorje of Tibet every year by performing the dance at their gompa. The third day of festival is known as lokpar. In the evening of the third day, the courtyard of the gompa is highly decorated with several ritual items. Thealtar of central courtyard is characterized by lu and gyepsil.The ritual items include marmegya (100 lamps), chha chha gya(100 chhappar), ngarlu gya (100ngarlu), torma gya (100torma) and one big torma of lokpar. If lokpar ritual is to be performed there should be displayed three headed torma of oxen head, pig's head and horse head which is known as tonak go sum or nak po go sum. In Lamobagar, there is displayed tonak chhe me dasor insted of tonak go sum. Tonak chhe me dasor has also three heads of big, ox and snake. Of course, this effigy torma has a tricephalic representation. While attending the ceremony of lokpar, the Sherpas of Junbesi seem to be concertating towards gyepsil. By the same, all the attendants ward off evil spirits and the bad planets from the potetial harm them and the grains are thrown to the gyepsil, which is known as semdil. Puja is also performed in big scale. A big torma (dough cske ) is displayed at the courtyard.

A display of another important torma which they call tonak go sum or lokpar torma in Junbesi and the torma of tonak chhe me dasor in Lamobbagar is ianother interesting feature. This torma is made at the time of dumje in Junbesi and Lamobagar. In Junbesi the Sherpas alternatively make either tonak go sum or lokpar. Afer completing all different dances during the festival, the torma istaken out of the gompa along with the procession. Generallythe effigy is either burnt or thrown. The way of throwing this effigy is called nen rek phang sum or jin sek phang sum. In the beginning, the torma of lokpar is worshipped in form of Guru Rimpoche and later it is burnt because as it is believed that it destroys all enemies. But no gyepsi and lokpar ritual is performed together on the same day. As it was noticed that these irtual are performed alternatively. If it is the day of waxing moon (aunsi), lokpar ritual is performed and gyepsi is performed on day of full moon (Purnima). This act is known as tonak chhe me dasor do dongsi, tonak go sum do dongsi or lokpar do dongsi. In order to take this torma one man of middle status is requested with yangzi. He is called pesyangba in Junbesi and gemaka in Khumbu. Before throwing this torma , the Lama summons to all the deities to fight against the universal enemies. After summoning activties of the Lama utterance threatening shouts come from every attendant and fanally a fire is lit in one place where the torma is thrown into blaze. This is generally observed in Solukhumbu but in Lamobagar, the torma is not thrown into the fire The torma put on a stone then the Lama starts to summon up and after his summoning activities each and every attendants thrown the stone to kill their enemy. Finally the torma seems broken into many pieces. thus they kill their enemy very covertly.

The forth day of the festival is known as wong. On that day, all the villagers go to the gompa and offer some grains to the altar of the central courtyard. On the same day, the villagers go to gompa to implore to the Kuchhap Ternga,the statue of Guru Rimpoche. The Lama distributes the offerings of dumje festival to the attendants. On th following evening, both male and female group gather at the gompa and performed traditionaldance known as syabru.(foot stepping dance). There seems an idyllic environment as some people will be offering chhyang(locally fermented beer) to their relatives, some eill be singing and dancing and the attendants will be observing allto make fun. The same scenario can be seen in Lamoabagar. While serving chhang or arac, the chhiwa should be very careful to whom he or she has to give same furo (dringking cup) and t whom the furo should be changed for providing drink. There is tradition of using same cup by all participants. While drinking chhyang , if they use same cup means they all belong to the same group, khadiku (similar mouth, insider ) and if the different cup is provided to the attendants, it is known that the cup holder either belongs to the lower status of the sherpa group or the non Sherpa khamidiku (disssimilar mouth , outsider). Thus, the dringking cup identifise the outsiders and insider s within the Sherpa community. This also reveals that how furo plays an important role to keep the Sherpas within their social structure to maintain their own identity. Thus, the festival ends with joy and happiness. over all, the dumje festival is characterized by the number of religious and legendary dances, the exorcism rites and the meditative worship. For the whole dumje celebration, two indibiduals are appointed as chho thimba and chhorpen. The function of chhothimba is to keep control the mass eho have come to attend the festival. The chhoppen's duty is to help the lamas at the time of puja. the significance of this festival is to wish peace and prosperity of the people and the country, king and country.

 

Teej: This is a Hindu married woman’s day for her man. This festival is celebrated in August/September. Women clad in beautiful red saris with shining potes (glass beads), singing and dancing is the sight almost everywhere in Nepal during the festival of Teej. On this day women observe a fast and pray Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried women also observe this festival with unabated zeal with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.

Indra Jatra: This festival named after Lord Indra- the God of Rain and also the King of Heaven is celebrated by both the Buddhists and Hindus in Nepal in August/September. This festival lasts for eight days with singing, mask dancing and rejoicing. The chariot of Kumari – the Living Goddess is taken through the main streets of Kathmandu with much fanfare. On the first day, the King of Nepal also pays homage to Goddess Kumari. The crowd of excited people from performers to spectators engulfs the streets of Kathmandu during this festival. People get to enjoy various classical dances like elephant dance, lakhe – a very popular dance of a man with a mask.

Tihar: This festival of lights that falls between October/November is the second biggest festival after Dashain. This festival lasts for five days and people worship Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth. All the houses are cleaned and decorated with the belief that Goddess Laxmi will enter the house that is the cleanest and people lit candles, oil lamps and other lights and the whole place looks illuminating. During the five days, crows, dogs and cows are worshipped and honored with vermilion, garland and delicious food for what they have done in the lives of humans. Crows are regarded as the messenger that brought news even during the times when there were no postmen and no postal services. Dogs are the most obedient animals and they guard our house as true guardians. Cow is also a symbol of wealth in Hinduism and she is also the national animal of Nepal. During Tihar, the Newari community in Nepal also observes Mha puja – a ritual of worshipping one’s own body and life. On this very day, the Newari New Year which is also known as Nepal Sambat begins. The festival ends with Bhai Tika – brothers’ day when his sisters worship him for his long and healthy life to safeguard the lives of his sisters. This is also a gambling time in Nepal as gambling is not illegal during this festival.

 Dashain Festivals in Nepal

During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood.

Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorised the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo. The first nine days signify the nine days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolise the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.

In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to the mother goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune. During this time the reunion of distant and nearby relatives occur in every household. The market is filled with shoppers seeking new clothing, gifts, luxuries and enormous supplies of temple offering for the gods, as well as foodstuffs for the family feasting. Thousands of sheep, goats, ducks, chicken and water buffalo are prepared for the great slaughter. All types of organisations are closed for ten to fifteen days. Labourers are almost impossible to find; from the poor to the rich, all enjoy the festive mood. Anywhere you go the aroma of 'Vijaya Dashami' is found.

The first nine days of Dashain are called Nawa Ratri when tantric rites are conducted. In Nepal the life force is embodied in the divine energy and power of the female, depicted as goddess Durga in her many forms. All goddess who emanated from goddess Durga are known as devis, each with different aspects and powers. In most mother goddess temples the deity is represented simply as a sacred Kalash, carved water jug or multiple handed goddess holding murderous weapons. During these nine days people pay their homage to the goddess. If she is properly worshiped and pleased good fortunes are on the way and if angered through neglect then misfortunes are around the corner. Mother goddess is the source of life and everything.

The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana, which literally means pot establishing. On this day the kalash, (holy water vessel) symbolising goddess Durga often with her image embossed on the side is placed in the prayer room. The kalash is filled with holy water and covered with cowdung on to which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the kalash is put in the centre. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular moment the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.

The room where the kalash is established is called 'Dashain Ghar'. Generally women are not allowed to enter the room where Dashain puja is being carried out. A priest or a household man worships the kalash everyday once in the morning and then in the evening. The kalash and the sand are sprinkled with holy water everyday and it is shielded from direct sunlight. By the tenth day, the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. The sacred yellow grass is called 'Jamara'. It is bestowed by the elders atop the heads of those younger to them during the last five days when tika is put on. The jamara is taken as a token of Goddess Durga as well as the elders blessing.

As days passes by regular rituals are observed till the seventh day. The seventh day is called 'Fulpati'.

In fulpati, the royal kalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the fulpati parade. With this the Dashain feasting starts.

The eighth day is called the Maha Asthami: The fervour of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house through out the day. The night of the eighth day is called 'Kal Ratri', the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues till dawn. While the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat are consumed.

The ninth day is called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered to honour Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, aeroplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire day is colourful.

The tenth day is the Dashami: On this day we take tika and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day. In the last day people stay at home and rest. The full moon day is also called 'Kojagrata' meaning 'who is awake'. The Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshipped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is given an invitation to visit each and everyone.

After Dashain everyone settles back to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Dashain thus is not only the longest festival but also the most anticipated one among all the festivals of Nepal.

Kumari Devi - The Living Goddess

Not only does Nepal have many gods, goddess, deities, Bodhisattvas (near Buddhas), avatars and manifestations, which are worshipped and revered as statues, images, paintings and symbols, but it also has a real living goddess. The Kumari Devi is a young girl who lives in the building known as the Kumari Ghar, right beside Kathmandu's Durbar Square.

From time immemorial the practice of worshipping an ordinary pre-pubescent girl as a source of supreme power has been an integral

part of both Hinduism and Buddhism, a tradition which continues even to this day virtually in every household. They call this girl Kumari Devi and worship her on all the religious occasions.

The predominance of the Kumari cult is more distinctly evident among the Newar community inside the Kathmandu Valley as she has become an inevitable feature of their worship almost in every Vihar and Bahal and including the nooks and corners of Newari settlements. However, it was the Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism that was responsible for establishing the tradition of worshipping a girl from the Sakya community as the royal Living Goddess.

The selection of the Living Goddess is a highly elaborate tantric ritual. Upon passing the preliminary test, this is merely concerned with their 32 attributes of perfection, including the colour of her eyes, the shape of her teeth and the sound of her voice. Her horoscope must also be appropriate. The 4 to 7 year poor girls from the Sakya community are made to confront a goddess in the darkened room. The sight of the Buffalo heads scattered around, the demon- like masked dancers, the terrifying noises theyencounter scare some of these innocent babies. The real goddess is unlikely to be frightened, so the one who is calm and collected throughout the tests is the only girl who is entitled to sit on the pedestal for worship as the Living Goddess. Then as a final test similar to that of the Dalai Lama, the Kumari then chooses items of clothing and decoration worn by her predecessor.

The god-house Kumari Ghar is a store-house of magnificent intricate carvings where the Living Goddess performs her daily rituals. During her tenure in the god-house, Guthi Sansthan, the government trust fund bears her entire expenses including that of her caretakers. Under normal circumstances, her days in the god-house come to an end with her first menstruation, but if she turns out to be unlucky, as they say, even a minor scratch on her body that bleeds can make her invalid for worship. She then changes back to the status of normal mortal and the search of a new Kumari begins. It is said to be unlucky to marry an ex-Kumari.

On Indra Jatra, in September, the Living Goddess in all her jeweled splendor travels through the older part of Kathmandu city in a three tiered chariot accompanied by Ganesh and Bhairab each day for three days. It is really a grand gala in which people in their thousands throng in and around the Kathmandu Durbar Square to pay their homage to the Living Goddess. During this festival she also blesses the King in keeping with the tradition in which the first king of the Shah dynasty, who annexed Kathmandu in 1768, received a blessing from the Living Goddess.

 

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