Friday, October 03, 2008

Dushera: The hour of happiness


Culture is a treasure of a community. Till culture is saved, the community exists. Dushera is one such festival that is worshiped by all the Nepalese Hindu, irrespective of class and creed. It is the most auspicious festival and symbolizes the victory of Goddess Durga or the Devi Bhawani over demon Mahisashur.

Legend says, the demon king Mahissasur was a great offender whose tyranny and strain made the gods in heaven reach out for lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu thus created a powerful and a beautiful Devi Bhawani. She had a lion as a vehicle presented by the Himalayas and every god worshiped her as Mahalaxmi, Maha Saraswati and Mahakali. When Mahaisasur came to know about Devi Bhawani, he was astonished by her beauty and desired to marry her.

Devi came to know about the demons evil thought and invited him to the battlefield. She put on a condition that he would marry him, if he defeats her in the duel. The battle was fought and finally an atrocity of the devil was put to an end. The battle was fought for nine days and reflects the tradition of Navratha and on the tenth day Vijaya dashami, the days of victory with tika (smear of rice, curd and colours) is observed. Dushera is a time when men and women are attired in their best clothes. The houses are painted and it is the time for family feast.

The festival of happiness starts with the commencement of “Solah Sharad Solah Din’’ that last for 16 days. For 16 days the people abstains from consuming meat, fish, and alcohol in memory of the spirit of departed paternal ancestors. Navartha is celebrated for nine days, where people pay homage to the goddess. Lessons on Chandi, Durga Kawatch and Durga Mahatmya are recited at homes and temple.

Navatha starts on Ashwin Sukla, where the idol of Devi Bhawani is establish with the idol of Ganesha and Devi Laxmi on right while the idol of Kartik and Devi Bharati is placed on left side on this day. Jamara is sowed on top of cow dung, mud and sand is placed in the tappara (small bowl like made of leaf) of Newara, banana, etc). This day is also known as Ghatasthapana. A holy water is collected on a kalash (water vessel) and offered to the Devi. Devi Bhawani is the conservator of animals, conservator of all creations, protector of lords, protector of spirit of paternal ancestors; offering her the holy water is believed to gratify her. The sown Jamara will grow up to five to six inch by the tenth day and is given to the younger family member on the day of Vijaya Dashami with blessing.

On the first day of Navratha, the king is the first to sow the Jamara while the rest would sow the other day, as in the tradition. For the nine days, the head of the family sprinkles the holy water on the seed of Jamara. It is believed that Lord Rama received blessing from Devi Bhawani in the form of Jamara and was victorious against Ravana. Thus Jamara has its part in the tradition on the Hindus. On each day Navaratha has different images of Devi Bhawani as; Shailputri, Brahmacharini, Chandra ghanta, Chashmanda, Rukundamata, Katyayarni, Kaalratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. The seventh day is known as Saptami and also the day of Phulpati. Till this day actually the Devi had not arrived to the puja ghar, only the religious texts are recited.

It is on this day of Pulphati that the Devi is invited. This day is celebrated with full merry and large number of devotee gathers and follows the long procession. People in traditional dresses and costumes carry out the flowers and the kalash. Everyone dances all the way through the road chanting religious hymns. While moving along the marketplace they stoop at one place where they assume that the Devi has arrived in their flowers. The flowers are then worshiped and the water and rice grains are sprinkled. The procession is then taken back and the Devi is placed on the puja ghar.

The eight-day is the Mahaastami where animal sacrifice is performed. There is a tradition of giving sacrifice in the name of Mahakali and waking up of the Devi Kaal Ratri. Aastami starts the stage for the bhoj, the traditional food meal of the Newars. Now for the last three days of the Aastami, the family members will ascertain the use of rice for their meal. The bhoj mainly consists of mutton, egg, Soya bean, beaten rice, garlic, zinger, sidra, the local liquor or the curd and others. These food items are served in a banana leaf. The ladies in the family have to give the food to the male members and it is the same when the ladies come for the feast, all in a traditional ways. Before the bhoj is performed, sota is given with eggs on the tappara and a cup of curd with the hands crossed such that the person in the receiving end takes the cup in his right hand. At least for three times he need to lick the egg and drink the curd and each of the three times the curd is added to his cup as the tradition.

The family members sit at the gundri (mat) on the floor as to their precedence. The younger ones have to bow to the feet of all the seniors on the assembled room and sit in their respective place. The place is first swept at one time without lifting the broom. Then the water is brought in the container along with the bowl to wash out the hand and the mouth. After cleaning up the mouth, the water is sprinkled for three times in order to purify. The custom is also repeated after the end of the Bhoj. After bowing to the seniors the bhoj ends. This bhoj continues for the next two days. Aastami is also known as maar ceremony for the tradition of the sacrifice. The animals are sacrificed to please the goddess. The sacrificial goats, hens, and others are first worshiped and tika is put on their forehead. These activities continuous till the naumi, the ninth day of the navratha. It is believed that, if the animal is not killed in the one force, the Devi is not pleased.

The ninth day is the main puja. It is on this day that the chandi recitation comes to the end. It is on this day the Bhimsen puja is performed. A goat and a cock are sacrificed in order to please the kul devta. It is also believed if one could please the Bhimsen one can attain eternity. The head of the goat and the cock is offered to the feet of the idol. That person who doesn’t follow the sacrificing of the animals they offer the flowers and the fruits.

After naumi, it is the vijaya dashami. This day is the actual dasian, the Nepali people observe. Everyone celebrates the victory of goddess Durga. On this day the elder puts the tika made of the smear of the rice grains, curd and the colours on the forehead of the young ones and blessed them for eternity. A sacred string of red and white is tied on their neck. The jamara is placed behind the ear of the young ones.

Different Nepali communities have their own way of celebrating the occasion but the deep-rooted perception for all remains the same.