September 13, 2011

'DASHAIN' OR 'VIJAYA DASHAMI' : IN KEEPING THE TRADITION SURROUNDS A QUESTION OF ITS VALIDITY

[Linguistic anthropologist B. K. Rana, in his article published in 2001 in Kantipur, unfolds the history of Drabya Shah and Prithivi Naryan Shah (Founder of modern Nepal) how those two kings reached to celebrate Vijaya Dashami as their symbolic victory over their enemies. When the Hindu rulers in Nepal defeated the local rulers specially the Magars, mimicked the victory of Rama over Ravana as a great victory celebration. In the context of Nepal, the way it has been viewed as the victory of devas over asuras, victory of satya over asatya, cannot be explained otherway than its celebration of enmity against its own people. In essence it is the wholesome melodrama politically as well as racially profiled against its own people. Rama and Ravana war perhaps did not happen in the land of present Nepal.]

By Kishore Sherchand PhD
Image courtesy: India on Rent
This year too Nepalese folks will be celebrating Vijaya Dashami or Dashain as the most important festival keeping the longest Government holiday, mass sacrificing, visiting seniors to receive blessings and so on. After the Panchayat autocracy, a message of boycotting Vijaya Dashami festival started to float especially among indigenous people - the Janajatis in the country. Many started to raise questions more objectively. Some formally declared boycotting it.
Historically, much of its celebration is tied up with the Ramayana the great epic wherein Rama is described as killing  Ravana, a historic King of Sri Lanka. The story goes around a war between two rulers, Deva Rama and demon Rakshas (राक्षस) :  Ravana. There is no any scientific validity that Ravana was indeed a demon or Rakshas (राक्षस) except for believing that they were two rivals. Before the Indo-Aryan invasion, the Adibashis in the plains of Indian sub-continent were largely believed to be descendents of Dravidian bloods; much darker in color; and by modern racial classification, a separate than Caucasian although there is not much scientific verification to differentiate. 
However, many of south Indians and Sri Lankan are said to be descendents of Dravids. So, if the demon or Rakshas Ravana is a true story, it should not be imagined other than a true human being (Homo sapiens; 2n=46). The only more plausible explanation of the word demon or Rakshasa in Hindu mythology could apply to whoever viewed as an enemy or you don’t like (implied). The enemies are always thought to be bad and evil.
Linguistic-anthropologist B. K. Rana, in his article published in 2001 in Kantipur, unfolds the history of Drabya Shah and Prithivi Naryan Shah (Founder of modern Nepal) how those two kings reached to celebrate Vijaya Dashami as their symbolic victory over their enemies. When the Hindu rulers in Nepal defeated the local rulers specially the Magars, mimicked the victory of Rama over Ravana as a great victory celebration. In the context of Nepal, the way it has been viewed as the victory of devas over asuras, victory of satya over asatya, cannot be explained otherway than its celebration of enmity against its own people. In essence it is the wholesome melodrama politically as well as racially profiled against its own people. Rama and Ravana war perhaps did not happen in the land of present Nepal.
We are closer to India and ofcourse familiar with Hinduism and Hindu mythology also. Naturally we know more about Rama’s greatness than that of Ravana. While going to the other side of the world what Sri Lankan people think about this mythology: they have opposite perception over so-called Rakshas (राक्षस) King Ravan. They don’t believe Ravana  was a demon or Rakshas (राक्षस).He was a great King of Sri Lanka. The story goes on this way : Sri Lanka was much more developed in those days and used naturally to boast of having Puspak Biman which I refute totally. The modern theory of human evolution does not testify at all other than a mere blind faith and dogmatism. The only plausible explanation should be, more science and technology could have developed. The great Ravana possessed ten talents as depicted having 10 heads than just one head. There is not yet proven evidence of his physical existence in Sri Lanka except in a historically written the Hindu epic. However, there has been some attempt to proving the existence of his dead body lying in an inaccessible cave called 'Ravana Cave'. And they are trying to develop it as a powerful tourist destination.

My experience goes all the way back to India while I was a student for my academic career. During my six years' education in North West India, I did not even notice when this Dushehara festival fell because they were not celebrating the way they were doing for Deepavali or Tihar. While looking into Tihar, I am not much aware of any portrait of its political and racial motives. I guess it is more colorful and joyful, showing the respects of brotherhood-sisterhood, adoring some animals if not all. It does not show of political implication or enmity against other race, caste, color or creed.

From the above, it is said that Vijaya Dashami is a depiction of enmity among rulers, winners and losers, one who defeated and the other who got defeated, an inherent characteristics of power hungry rulers.  It is a political celebration. We may even question, “Are we the enemies of Sri Lankan people?” who like so much visiting Nepal and Nepalese people and Lumbini - the Birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama. According to the statistics, last year more Sri Lankans visited Lumbini Nepal than any other third country citizens.

The other dark side of this festival is the mass killing  (or one may customarily say 'sacrifice') of animals in the name of worshiping Goddess Durga. People kill and eat meat but not in the name of God which is another most hatred and inhumanistic way how it is being practiced. Many social activists are against mass killing of animals in the name of 'some sacrifice' and consider it as exhibition of animal cruelty, barbarism. Hence, one may outright question about the validity and applicability of Srimatbhagabat, the main source of Hindu Dharma. What the Vedic way of Dharma speaks does not seem to have been applied in the Nepalese society.

Things change in perception and in need. It is the dynamics of the law of nature. We ought to be able to separate bad from good whether it is within a faith or between the faiths or any social order. We ought to be able to separate humanistic from inhumanistic actions, beliefs or faiths. It must address the functional aspects of humanity otherwise it will lead to inhuman behavior and social injustice.

People can adopt others’ faith, culture and social norms if they speak humanity and a sense of peaceful co-existence. There is no problem to accept Deepawali, Tihar, Sarswati or any other if that justifies the humanistic way of life. If not, people always deserve to question on the validity of Dashain, the greatest festival of Nepalese people. Finally, it is the time that Nepalese people rethink and question even of the status of Vijaya Dashami as a national holiday when other more humanistically inspired festivities are available in the Nepalese Society.


Related Posts:

a) DASHAIN THIS YEAR IN INDIA MAHISHASUR DECLARED MARTYR

b) INDIAN GOVERNMENT HAS RECOGNIZED 'ASURS' AS ONE OF ITS ANCIENT PEOPLES

*

'DASHAIN' AND 'TIHAR': FROM A SOCIO-CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE 
[The identity of a nation fades away when its cultural belief fades away. To avoid such a situation to surface, Hindus, Buddhists and Nepali people scattered across the world must initiate something serious to save our cultural heritage. We, the  patriots of the nation pray to goddess Nava Durga Bhawani to be kind to the Nepalese People all around the world. Goddess Kali is worshipped by all Hindus as the manifestation of Shakti - the fierce power of nature, destroyer of all evil. Her peaceful manifestation is Goddess Durga. Durga is the symbol of truth who also subdues Mahishashura,  the representative of devilish attitude. A country's existence and prestige gradually erode when tradition and culture are not kept alive. One must not be confused about the country's  old customs and tradition so to say religion also.]                               

By Dirgha Raj Prasai
Dashain (Vijaya Dashami) is a traditional cultural festivity. Before Prithvi Narayan Shah (1868), the festival of Dashain and Tihar used to be observed as a common culture of all people. After Prithvi Narayan Shah unified a modern Nepal, a new tradition was set by bringing Phulpati and Jamara to Kathmandu from the Gorakhkali Temple by a Magar priest. People from both  faiths: Hindu and Buddhist take Tika from senior family members on the occasion of Vijaya Dashami. Among all religions of the world Hindu religion is considered as the most liberal. Voltaire says, 'Hinduism is the best gift of the East to the West'. Similarly, George Bernard Shaw said 'Hindu religion is the most important and the most liberal religion of the world'. If you checked Encyclopaedia of Religions and Ethics: you may come across some signs of Hindu religion  found even in the present Islamic country like Iran. Stone inscriptions of 486 BC found in Iran contain the words 'Hindu and Hindus'. Even an ancient Parsi scripture 'Shatir' has  a word of Vedavyasa, 'I am a true Hindu-born in a Hindu country'.

In Dashain, interested Hindus, Buddhists and member of Muslim communities used to visit the royal palace to receive Tika from the King. But will the national festival hold fast under this circumstances that the monarchy is gone ? Some people express their dissatisfaction to the unconstitutional and  forceful dethronement  of the monarch. Nepal was founded and unified with the joint effort of the monarch and the people. We Nepali are very much concerned about the forceful displacement of the monarch following unconstitutional procedures. Patriots of the country are pondering how to save the nation and chase the 'ruling monsters' away. The agendas of republic, secularism and federalism will disintegrate the nation. Nepal has been orphaned without the monarch. The Dashain celebrated in the absence of the monarch is like a nation without identity. It is a matter of profound grief and sorrow.

The identity of a nation fades away when its cultural belief fades away. To avoid such a situation to surface, Hindus, Buddhists and Nepali people scattered across the world must  initiate something serious to save our cultural heritage. We, the  patriots of the nation pray to goddess Nava Durga Bhawani to be kind to the Nepalese People all around the world. Goddess Kali is worshipped by all Hindus as the manifestation of Shakti - the fierce power of nature, destroyer of all evil. Her peaceful manifestation is Goddess Durga. Durga is the symbol of truth who also subdues Mahishashura,  the representative of devilish attitude. A country's existence and prestige gradually erode when tradition and culture are not kept alive. One must not be confused about the country's  old customs and tradition so to say religion also.

Both the Hindus and Buddhists celebrate Dashain as the national festival. People of Buddhist faith also celebrate Dashain cheerfully. Lord Buddha said Sanatan Dharma is the chief religion. They also believe that there should be no intermingling of religion and politics in traditional festivals. Buddhist Chandramukhi Lama says, 'Dhashain is our national heritage'. Buddhists accept red (vermilion powder, few others take white) tika on their foreheads. Whatever colour it is, it is symbol of victory of truth over falsehood. 

Gyanibajra Lama (79 years), Chief of Buaudhha has residence aside of Bouddha Stupa. He showers blessing to peoples in Dashain with Tika and Jamara. Similarly, Nepalese Muslim Community has also a huge respect of Dashain. Muslim community in Nepalgunj  a border township with India,  celebrate Dashain taking Red Tika and Yellow Jamara as Prasad of Devi. (Kantipur Daily 3rd Kartik, 2067) This is an example of respect of one religion to another or religious harmony

The Dalai Lama, in an interview to Panchjanya Hindi Weekly (Nov 22, 1992), told that he believed both Hinduism and Buddhism as 'brothers'. These two religions have many similarities like Samadhi, Yoga, Tantra etc. which were adopted by Buddhists from Hindus. Similarly the former Bhutanese King Jigme Singhe Wangchuk rightly said on Dashain,  "I actively participate in Dhashain. Our goddess (Ista-devata) is Mahalaxmi and we worship Shiva and Vishnu." (The Times of India' in January 7, 1993). Since we have a tradition to worship both Shiva and Buddha, our country never experienced religious strife among the followers of these two religions. Festivals like Dashain, Tihar, Teej, Buddha Jayanti, Indrajatra etc. are life styles of Nepalese people. During this greatest festival of Dashain countless Hindus, Buddhists and several Muslims demonstrate hearty association and respect towards the festival.

Tihar and Nepal Sambat

Nepal Sambat and Mahapuja are celebrated at 'Tihar.' In Tihar we worship Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. During the festival all the houses in the cities and villages are decorated and oil lamps are lit up. Thus, during the night the entire village or city looks like a sparkling diamond. This festival is celebrated five days. The first day of Tihar is known as ‘Kag Tihar’, (crow's day). Crow, the messenger of death,  is honoured on the first day of Tihar. The second day is called ‘Kukur Tihar’, (dogs' day). A dog plays many roles in our society. We pray the dog to guard our house as he guards the underworld-gate  also and to divert destruction away from our homes. On this day you can see dogs running around with garlands on their necks. The third day is the most important day of the festival. It is called ‘Laxmi Puja’, the day when we worship the goddess of wealth. On this day, early in the morning the cow is offered  worship. Tika is put on her head and a garland is placed around her neck and  then she is fed delicious foods. 

A cow also symbolizes wealth and she is the most holy animal for Hindus. On this day throughout the evening many groups of children go around  houses singing Deusi Bhaila- a song of  praise to the goddess of wealth. Dancing and telling the old story  of god and goddess (first day) 'Bhaili Ram' then 'Deusuri Ram' with great joy and these children are given with love- gifts, money, various food and fruits also. During this day, the entire country rises up full of joy and vitality. The fourth day is bit different. Today the things you worship depend on your specific cultural background. Normally most  people perform ‘Govardhan Puja’, (Bull worship). The bull is worshipped with Tika, garland and then a delicious meal also.

In the last day, a sister worships her brothers for their prosperous, happy and long life. She  worships 'Yamaraj’(God of death) to give her brothers long life. The main theme behind Bhai Tika (brother worship) is the sisters praying for their brother’s long life to the Yama Raj, the god of the underworld. Tihar starts from the thirteenth day of the waning moon in October.

Tihar is called as ‘Yama Panchak’ also which literally means ‘the five days of the underworld god’. We also worship ‘Yamaraj’ in different forms in those five days. In other words this festival is meant for long life, prosperity and happiness.


The Hindu’s all over the world, irrespective of their caste and creed and country of origin, celebrate this festival 'Tihar' or 'Deepawali'. Both Nepal  and  India, the two countries share sdame religion and culture: like Depawali and Dusera, People in other countries like USA, Canada, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad, Malaysia also celebrate Depawali..It is the only festival celebrated all over the country from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir and Manipur to Gujarat. In the Northern India this festival is celebrated as Diwali but in South India it is celebrated as Deepawali. Deepawali, the festival of light is a harbinger of joy and happiness.

It is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness and of hope over despair. That the festival is celebrated by people from diverse faiths is an admiration or affirmation of the Hindu traditions in the world. Dashain (worshipping Goddess Bhagawati for Power) and Tihar (worshipping Goddess Lakshmi for wealth) plays as link of cultural interrelationship among the Nepali people. Nepalese residing outside the country observe the festival as the identity of Nepalese people who are spread across the world. Regardless of their caste and creed they  exchange greetings and celebrate the festival in perfect cultural harmony.

But some Nepalese people coming under the Christian influence have been able to create illusions aiming at the people to boycott the great festival. But some Christians celebrate Dadhain as a cultural value without Tika. There have been efforts to pollute the holly festival with the color of the politics also. The leaders of different political parties in Nepal are not following the norms and values of their respective parties.  This is a matter of regret for our country. Some people belonging to indigenous groups are also competing with each other to show off that they can be  better off boycotting Dashain. But the indigenous people from broad tell that boycotting Dasian may not solve the issues they are raising today. Prof.Gopinarayan Pradhan from Darjeeling says- 'the attempt to reduce the extensive Nepali identity to class based identity is sad.' Swami Prapnanacharya said-'Estadev Mahadev, Parwati and Drawasam and Yumasan. Worshipping Nawadurga in Nawaratra is an ancient tradition. To negate the ancient culture of receiving Tika from seniors on Vijaya Dashami  is not wise thing to do..

Dashain brings a joyous moment to all. Those who have started boycotting the festival are making mistake. This is their psychological defeat. What can be achieved from losing the identity? Dashain offers an immense opportunity for the people to be together and share joy and happiness as Christians do at Christmas. In reality  Dashain is not a religion. It is a traditional and cultural belief. It should be kept alive.