October 27, 2014

Dashain and Tihar at Home in Washington

During the years when I traveled regularly to Nepal, I usually went in the fall. Those trips often coincided with at least one of the two biggest festivals of the year -- Dashain and Tihar. I always enjoyed them.

If I was at home -- not abroad -- I often celebrated these festivals at the homes of my local Nepali friends. Now I get to enjoy the celebrations in my own home, since the Nepalis outnumber me two to one in our household.

This year, the holidays were especially enjoyable because Bhawana's parents stayed with us during part of their U.S. visit. The photo above shows Bhawana with her parents as we did Dashain tika on the back porch a few weeks ago.

Here's a brief background on the two holidays:

The main event, Dashain comes first. Nepalis in country and abroad try to get home. The goddess Durga is worshiped with many offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual of drenching the goddess in blood (not my favorite part of the festival). But the emphasis is on family gatherings and the renewal of community ties. 

On the festival's final day, the family elder gives the red tika blessing to family members. I performed that function for the first time last month as the elder (by far!) in our family.

The second of the big two festivals is Tihar, or Deepawali -- which literally means "row of lights." It lasts five days and honors Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and good luck.

The sacred cow, which Hindus regard as their holy mother, is garlanded with flowers. Tika is applied to the cow's forehead. Houses, shops, offices, factories, and mills are brightly decorated with lights. It's a time of lights and tinsel, not unlike our Christmas. Special lighting arrangements are displayed on the day of Laxmi Puja. Flickering oil lamps brighten courtyards, doorways, roof tops, verandas, and windows.

Dashain on Eskridge Terrace
We had a lovely warm evening for our Dashain tika. I wonder... How many times have I received tika?

Tihar on Eskridge Terrace
Nimesh and Bhawana transformed our downstairs into a "festival of lights" and, of course, food.

Some traditions are world-wide -- Women dress up. Men don't.         

                Aren't they a great looking family?

Meanwhile, back in Kathmandu, Nimesh's sister Sona and brother Rhitesh celebrated the holiday at home. I'm not sure whether this photo was taken on Dashain or Tihar. I lifted it from Sona's Facebook page. Pretty fancy tika!

In another month, Nimesh and Bhawana will return to Kathmandu to celebrate Sona's wedding, which promises to be a great event. Wish I were up to being there.

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I wrote about these two wonderful Nepali holidays in a post two years ago. 

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