Also known as Dussehra in India, and sometimes as Mohani in the Kathmandu Valley, Dashain is one of the most important Hindu holidays in Nepal and Bhutan. It is also one of the biggest festivals of the year.
The Dashain festival takes place every year, starting in the Hindu month of Ashwin and ending on the full moon. This usually takes place between September and October.
Every year, family members gather to perform puja and celebrate together. And 2021 is no different.
While the pandemic has prevented the Nepalese people from observing the holiday en masse, there are still many opportunities to enjoy the holiday.
But before we get to how you can celebrate Dashain in 2021, let’s discuss more about the origins of this festive season.
What is the history of Dashain?
There are two mythic stories linked to Dashain and why it’s celebrated today.
In the first, we have the fierce battle between the goddess Durga and the buffalo demon Mahishasura.
Mahishasura, a devotee of Lord Brahma, won his favor and wished for the boon of immortality. Brahma fulfilled his request, saying that no man or child would ever be able to kill him.
With his heart set on war and devastation, Mahishasura, spelled Mahisasur in Nepali, used his newfound power to wreak havoc on Earth. To put an end to his reign of destruction, Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu and their consorts created Durga from their collective powers.
Durga, with ten arms and powers from all major deities, descended to Earth to defeat Mahishaura. It took ten days in all for her to completely destroy the buffalo demon.
Similarly, Dashain is linked to the story of Lord Ram’s defeat of the demon king Ravana from the Ramayana. Just as Durga triumphed over Mahishaura, Ram traveled to Lanka to retrieve his wife and eventually defeats Ravana.
Both stories share a single common thread: The victory of good over evil.
The Buddhist interpretation of Dashain
In Nepal, it isn’t uncommon to see Buddhists also celebrating Dashain. Nepali Buddhists use this holiday to commemorate Ashoka’s adoption of Ahimsa, the belief that one should not harm living things.
How to celebrate Dashain in 2021
As we mentioned earlier, Dashain can easily last for 15 days. But not every single day carries the same weight. The different important days also have special associated rituals. While regional and family traditions may vary, the significant days of Dashain look like this:
- Ghatasthapana – As the first day of the festival, Ghatasthapana is extremely important. The name literally translates to “sowing Jamara”, which is a type of yellow barley. During this time, jamara seeds are planted in a clay pot, which is kept from direct sunlight and blessed daily. This process continues for seven days.
- Phulpati – By the seventh day, the seed have grown into grass. The official holiday begins around this time, and workers will have 5 days off to celebrate. Also spelled Fulpati, which means flower-plants, devotees bring banana stalks, jamara, sugarcane, wood apple leaves, along with a red cloth and holy water, to Hanumandhoka from Gorkha.
- Maha Asthami – On the eighth day of Dashain, it is believed that Kali has been appeased through animal sacrifice, typically goats, buffaloes, chickens, and ducks. Meat is often blessed and shared among family members. However, eating meat is not mandatory. Many families choose to eat vegetables and rice instead. Those who are opposed to animal sacrifice have also used coconuts and pumpkins instead.
- Maha Navami – The ninth day concludes the festival of Navratri and is right before Dashain. During this day, the Taleju Temple is open to the public for worship. It is also common to bless vehicles and work tools.
- Bijaya Dashami or Vijayadashami – On the tenth day, Nepalis celebrate the end of the battle and the victory of good over evil. Tika, a mixture of rice, yogurt, and vermilion, and jamara are used to bless all the members of the family. Parents, grandparents, and other elders are also likely to give money or gifts to their children.
- Kojagrat Purnima – On the last day of the festival, Hindus worship the goddess of wealth, Laxmi. People enjoy playing cards, flying kites, enjoying the large bamboo swings for the upcoming Tihar festival, wearing new clothes relax with friends and family, and eat well.
While mass gatherings may not be possible in 2021, it’s possible to enjoy this auspicious festival within your household or through communicating with your family through mobile apps.
Celebrating Dashain from abroad
If you are living abroad during Dashain, you can send money as dakshina to friends and family or send clothes and other gifts from online retailers in Nepal. You can also play online games, do puja at home and send pictures, play with rangoli, or find another way to get creative.
While spending Dashain at home may not be as exciting as the outdoor fairs and activities organized in Kathmandu and around Nepal, it can still be a fun family time. Through online stores or local Indian and Nepali shops, you can find everything you need for your household celebrations. From food to fireworks, there’s no limit to how you can enjoy the holiday, even when you are far from home.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to visit a group Puja or celebration at your local Hindu or Buddhist temple. Student organizations may also organize different events around Dashain.
If you do decide to attend a group celebration, it’s important to take pandemic-related precautions. This includes using hand sanitizer, wearing a mask, maintaining reasonable social distance, and getting vaccinated beforehand.
Sending money to Nepal with Remitly
At Remitly, we know how important it is to stay connected to family. We offer a secure and affordable way to send money home, even during major holidays. Through our simple app, sending dakshina to your family and friends is as easy as 1-2-3.
One of the most popular options for sending money to Nepal is to an eSewa mobile wallet account.
To get started sending to eSewa with Remitly, just follow these steps.
- For first-time users, download the Remitly app and create an account. Then select Nepal as your destination country.
- Enter the amount you wish to send.
- Select your delivery speed, then choose Mobile Money, Bank Deposit, or Cash Pickup as your delivery method and eSewa as your location.
- Enter your recipient’s mobile number and full name. If sending to an eSewa wallet, be sure they have an account already.
- Enter your payment details.
And that’s it! Give your details a quick review and press send. Rest easy knowing that your money is on its way across borders.