The other side of Dashain

-Aina Barca, Hetauda, Nepal

Dashain is the most auspicious religious festival of Nepal, which is celebrated between September and October. This festival commemorates the victory of Gods over devils. The tradition explains that the demon Mahaishaura had spread panic and terror in the world of divinities. And there was no God who was able to fight against him. On that moment of fear, the goddess Durga emerged and she fought the devil during nine days. The tenth day, Durga overcame Mahaishaura, returning the peace and spreading the good above the evil. That is why Durga is considered the mother Goddess and during Dashain festival, she is worshiped with offerings and animal sacrifices.

This festival is celebrated by Nepalese and Nepalese Diasporas alike, within Nepal and in various parts of the world. During the fifteen days that the celebration lasts, the majority of offices as well as the schools remain closed in Nepal. The market is filled with people buying new clothes, gifts and offerings to worship the goddess Durga. Children let colorful kites fly and sway themselves in bamboo swings, called “ping”. During Dashain, family reunions are very important. Many Nepalese return home from abroad and also from within the country in order to celebrate this festival with their loved ones. The aroma of Dashain surrounds Nepal with happiness, illusion and generosity.

During the last five years I have been living in Nepal, I have celebrated Dashain with a bittersweet aftertaste. On the eve of Dashain, both the children and the staffs of Asha Hostel are impatient to go home and celebrate the festival. Some families collect their children from the Hostel with an immense joy of reunion. Others collect them with less happiness and some with resignation. And finally there are some children, who have no one to pick them up to celebrate Dashain. What happens with these children? They also waited for their families, families that are non-existent. During these fifteen days of the festival they tend to be irascible, angry and resigned with a situation that is emotionally complex to manage. This is the other side of Dashain. A reality that goes unnoticed between the frenetic paces of consumerism, visits to the temple and preparations for celebrations.

In the face of this situation, there is something that made me particularly glad: to see how the staffs of Asha Hostel have become aware of the reality of those children who do not go home during Dashain.  At these moments, more than ever, we try to carry out new activities so that the school holidays become a time to enjoy for them. We also seek to create a cozy atmosphere for these children to celebrate Dashain with school family, even if it is not their own biological family. And above all, we never lose sight of the challenge to work on the management of emotions.

Dashain has many colors and nothing happens if it is not always pink. Surely the most important thing is to advocate and to practice the principles of truth, justice and kindness, for which the goddess Durga fought. And let us keep up the spirit of generosity that emerges from  Dashain during all the 365 days of the year, so that good always prevails over evil.