The Localist

Celebrating the mystery of Vijaya Dashami


Autumn is awesome in Nepal. The white Himalayas kiss the blue sky and the yellow paddy fields dance in slow motion, in tune with the caressing breeze and the whispering river playing hide-and-seek down the blue mountains. Nature is amazing. With the advent of autumn and the blooming of the golden marigolds and glowing poinsettias, culture gradually emerges in Nepalese society, humming the melody of the festive season. Yes, Dashain is coming!

Festivals like Vijaya Dashami (Dashain) are celebrated in Nepal to exchange fraternity and love, to extend goodwill and best wishes and, of course, to share humanity. This is wonderful.

Culture is unique because of the myths and mysteries. Festivals enliven culture, offering people the opportunity to enjoy these mysteries.  Religion often claims to be at the root of culture; Dashain, for instance, is associated with Hinduism. I don’t think, however, that you need to belong to a particular cultural or religious group to enjoy its mystery.

When autumn enters my door, nostalgia takes me to my childhood, where a little boy in a small rural village in the hills runs with a kite in his hand, happily chanting: Dashain Aayo, Dashain Aayo (Dashain is coming).


He jumps down the terraced fields and accompanies his friends to play on a special Dashain swing (pictured above). In the dusk, he hears someone coming towards his home playing popular folk music on a radio. He thinks it must be his father, a Gurkha army soldier based in neighbouring India, returning for Dashain. He thinks that he will get sweets and biscuits, new clothes and money, and feels exhilarated. Wow – what a Dashain!

Yes, his father has arrived after a year. He goes to see the cultural programs in a local school with his father, and he asks his father to take him to the temple to observe Naba Durga, the nine powerful goddesses.

On the day of Dashain, his parents bless him with red Tika (vermilion) on his forehead and yellow Jamaraa (sprouts of corn) beneath his Nepali cap, wishing him a long and successful life. He wanders about the neighbourhood, begging Tika and good wishes from the elders. With all of these blessings, he believes he will come first in his class at school, he will grow tall, he’ll get a good job and he’ll become a great man one day – this is the mystery I enjoy.

Gone are those days though! Things have changed now. At the behest of the market economy, the agrarian economy is suffering, barely helping people survive. Many are therefore migrating to the cities or abroad to earn a living. It is now hard for many people to manage survival obligations and social responsibility. Lucky are those who can still manage to visit their elderly parents and receive the blessings, as many people find no alternative but to wish a Happy Vijaya Dashami via their mobile phone.

Even so, the magic and the mystery of Vijaya Dashami remains alive in the heart of Nepalis as they gear up for the advent of autumn.


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