The Nepalis main festivals “Dashain” is taking place all over Nepal these days, and we have been lucky to observe their preparations and different traditions related to the festivities. It has made us realise that there are many similarities between the way Dashain and Norway’s constitution day 17th of May are celebrated, at least in the preparations where “dugnad” (voluntary communal work) seems to be present in both countries!
Right before Dashain started many of the residents of Putalibazar painted their houses, the government lay new asphalt where it was needed and people came together to clean the streets of the town. For us, the feeling of 17th May preparations kicked in, and let me tell you it increased when we saw people selling helium balloons and ice cream from a bike (almost like “isbilen”). Also, if it is one time a year the Nepali people by new clothes then it’s now; the clothing-stores are filled with new clothes and people buy and dress up in their newest outfits.
Most importantly Dashain is about family gatherings, and it emphasizes the importance of getting together and sharing good food with your loved ones. We were lucky to be invited to our house family’s celebration and trust me when I say that we met at least 40 family members, coming back home to Putalibazar from different parts of Nepal and India. Their family ties and the care and love they express for each other are truly inspiring and this will hopefully stay with us for a long time! While being in Nepal we learned that if one of the family members dies, the family won’t have celebrations for one year after the death. This includes celebration of birthdays and festivals, to honour and show respect to the person that died. Our house family sadly they lost their grandfather in March, so their celebration is narrowed down to one day and it does not contain all the normal traditions for the festival – therefore were we very lucky to join their family gathering and their one-day celebration.
In the evening, after eating delicious Daal Bhat together, it was time for some dancing and of course we joined since we have been training for this (see our previous blogpost for details:) Watch the video below to see how this turned out, aha
As Dashain is all about family gatherings and eating well, it also about having fun, and swings (Nepali: Ping) made of bamboo tree are placed up all over Nepal (see the pictures below). Both kids and adults share the joy of swinging at the times of Dashain, and people sit around waiting for turns while sharing stories from the past year with each other. This is similar to how children gather for fun in the afternoon on the 17th of may, either with games like “sekkeløp” (sack race) at the shoool or at a tivoli.
But the similarties ends there, as Dashain symbolizes the victory of gods and their defeat over the evil demons. The symbol of power, Goddess Durga is worshipped during this festival. The duration of the festival are 15 days, and each day of the celebration has its own significance. For example, have we never seen as many goats as in this period, they were on top of busses, in the luggage rooms of cars, on scooters and tied up outside stores and houses. The reason for this is the ninth day of the festival, which is the main day for animal sacrifices, especially goats. Our local contact person, who is also the president of Syangja Red Cross District Chapter had a dilemma before Dashain; wondering if he should buy a “normal” goat of 20 kg for 17 000 rupees (1100, - NOK) or a Himalayan mountain goat for 30 000 rupees (2000, - NOK). We are not sure what he decided, but we will ask when he is back at the office!
Its been amazing experiencing this festival while being in Nepal, and we will bring with us the warm and love the Nepali people show for their families and how they prioritise to share this important festival together.