Nepalese celebrate 9 different new years because they have dozens of ethnic groups with their own unique calendars. While Nepal uses a solar calendar with fixed dates for most purposes, it reserves the traditional lunar calendar for religious festivals, birthdays, and “death anniversaries”. The Nepali New Year generally occurs between April 11th and 15th on the Gregorian Calendar and this year it falls on April 13. It is an official public holiday which marks the country’s 1st day of the year 2074.
Dashain, the longest and the most auspicious festival of Nepal, has started this week. It always starts with the first quarter of the moon and ends with the full moon. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil. According to Hindu mythology, the demon Mahishaura had created terror but Durga killed the demon.
The festival lasts 15 days and is a time when families and entire communities come together. The first nine days of the festival represent the battle, which took place between the different manifestations of Durga and Mahishasura and the 10th day is when Durga defeated Mahishasura.
The tenth day of the festival is the ‘Dashami’. On this day, the women prepare a mixture of rice, yogurt and vermilion. This preparation is known as “Tika”. Elders put this tika on the forehead of younger relatives to bless them with abundance in the upcoming years. The red also symbolizes the blood that ties the family together.
During the entire festival people make offerings to the different representations of Durga and remember that truth and justice must prevail over evil.
All Nepali people, regardless of castes or the country they live in, celebrate Dashain.
WAYS TO CELEBRATE
Flying kites is a very important part of celebrating Dashain as it is considered to be a way of reminding the gods not to send more rain. You can see people of all ages on their roofs flying kites.
Playing cards is another way of celebrating Dashain. While children are busy flying kites, the older members of the family get together and play cards.
New clothes. Wearing new clothes is an important part of the festival. As many people living in the villages are below the poverty line, for them it is often the case that new clothes come only with Dashain.
Bamboo swings are constructed all over the country as a way of celebration. These swings are called ‘ping’ in Nepali and they represent the best of local culture, tradition, community spirit and fun.
Animal sacrifices and fruit and vegetable offerings. Thousands of animals including buffalo and goats are slaughtered in Dashain every year. It has been considered an important ritual since it is believed that the gods are appeased by such sacrifices. Almost all the temples, especially the Durga and Kali temples are offered thousands of sacrifices. While thousands of animals are sacrificed to appease the gods, people also slaughter animals for the purpose of feasts.
However, for the past few years the animal rights activists in the country have been opposing these acts of slaughtering of animals in such a manner. They have been requesting people to stop such inhuman acts of killing the innocent animals and instead have suggested that they offer fruits and vegetables to the gods since they believe that it is not mentioned anywhere in Hindu religious books that animal sacrifices appease the gods and goddesses.