Happy “Dashami” or the 10th day of Dashain. The day when the goddess Durga triumphed over the demon Mahishasur and again “good” prevailed over “evil.”
Always up for a good story, I’m happy to share:
Mahishasur’s father was king of the “asuruas” (sometimes described as “demons” although I guess the translation is debatable) and once fell in love with a water buffalo. Mahishasur was born of this union, and could thus change between buffalo and man. Mahishasur happened to be fairly pious, or was at least a great devotee in meditation to the god Brahma. In turn Brahma granted Mahishasur a “boon” (I love how in Hindu mythological stories there is always a “boon” granted to the wrong person, and then all hell breaks loose) in which he could not be defeated by any man or any god.
Given this power Mahishasur started terrorizing heaven and earth, and none of the gods had the power to stop him. Something had to be done, so the gods conspired to beat the boon by creating a powerful young woman who could channel the power of the gods in the form of Durga. After nine days of vicious fighting, Durga prevailed and killed the human/buffalo demon. The days that followed were joyous days of celebration.
Much like Dashain, when friends and family get together, neighbors visit neighbors, everyone calls home to say hello and send holiday wishes, and the jamara grass is harvested to use for blessing along with red tikkas which are given out to those who are important to you.
Unfortunately R-dai has gone back to Nepal, and M-dai and S-di both lost in-laws during the past year and were thus unable to give tikkas, so hopefully P will give me one later tonight (although I guess that means he doesn’t get one…). Yet even with the lack of communal tikka-giving (like in past years) at least our neighborhood was ready to celebrate!
On Friday night we had an evening of “taas” or card playing and gambling, which is a common feature of the Dashain and Tihar holidays. Even though I grew up in a card playing household, I am forever forgetting the rules to Nepali games like “kitty”
and “marriage” (or until I get a refresher before the game) but at least I can hold my own in “call break” which is similar to one of my favorite American card games “spades.” The card game playing usually includes gambling, although my call break group just played for fun. I can’t say the same for P’s marriage game or the kitty game going on in the other card circle that evening.
Even though Dashami–the tikka day–is today (Monday), we decided to take advantage of the weekend (and sunshine!) and have a big party on Saturday.
The day started pretty early with lots of cooking and preparations at S-di and M-dai’s house. By mid-afternoon there were bowls upon bowls of food set up picnic style outside—spiced meat kabobs grilled on the barbeque; mattar paneer; different chanas and aloo curries and yogurt salads; fermented pickles made from tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers; roasted chicken, goat and pork—certainly enough to feed the entire neighborhood twice over (well… come to think of it, we did all go back for lunch on Sunday, and brought tupperware boxes of food home!)
The girls dressed in kurtas and saris, we had a campfire going against the encroaching autumn chill, and we danced to Nepali and Bollywood songs by the firelight until nearly midnight. And then, of course, came singing and M-dai playing his drum.
It wasn’t necessarily “traditional” but I think it is important to mark these holidays and not let them pass unnoticed. If P (and friends) can’t be at home (in Nepal) for the festive atmosphere with family then its important for us to recreate that atmosphere here!
The holiday was also nice because P’s brother U came for the weekend as well as my youngest sister M, so that she could experience Dashain for the first time.
Hurray for sharing different cultural experiences!
So Happy Dashain and Happy Dashami to everyone!
And a quick update: There was no goat sacrificing this year, although the conversation briefly resurfaced during the week. Ultimately time and cost were prohibitive, but there’s always next year. On Sunday P’s dad called and let us know that they spent the better part of the day preparing their goat (I guess the shortage wasn’t so bad?), so at least there was some goat action somewhere in the family :)
To see Happy Dashain Part I click HERE