Highs of Dashain

From blessings, dakshina, togetherness to memories, there are many reasons for the teenagers to celebrate Nepal’s biggest festival

KATHMANDU: Dashain is a time of great rejoicing, celebration of family and togetherness. The deeply layered festival presents something for everyone — the rich mythical background, a sense of cultural or religious solidarity in various religious rituals, and something as simple and beautiful as having fun with family and friends. The tradition of visiting various relatives to get tika from elders is something that solidifies family bonds through the years. And for youngsters, the prospect of collecting the dakshina, a gift of money that comes with the tika, is also a tantalising prospect.

Celebrating togetherness, blessings

Eighteen-year-old Grishma Rajkarnikar from Mahalaxmisthan, Lalitpur finds herself greatly interested in the actual meanings and values of rituals that are a part of Dashain. And she feels a greater sense in these rituals to be in the sense of togetherness they foster. “I really look forward to the gathering of families and friends — it unites different people together as branches on a tree,” she shared. And participating in different Dashain rituals holds significance to her as she feels they are part of a greater heritage.

Hailing from Kathmandu, she has many relatives living in the Kathmandu Valley. “I love to take blessings from all of them during tika, especially my grandmother. The happiness from that is different from any other,” she said.

And similar is the case for Deepa Sunuwar (Rai), 16, from Kapan who looks forward to the fun environment of Dashain every year. “All family members sitting together and chatting over cold drinks, and getting into lots of mischief with my siblings is what I enjoy the most about Dashain,” she shared, “All of that combined with the taste of my mother’s cooking, especially her buff chhoila, is what defines Dashain for me.”

Taking care to remember her turn during the tika ceremonies, Deepa is also strongly affected by the kind of blessings she gets from her elders making the ceremony an exciting and empowering one. “I try to notice if my elders have given me blessings different than the ones given to my siblings. Because I feel they really make a difference somewhere in my life. I believe that the blessings I get from my elders during tika really affects my life in a positive way so that is what I look forward to,” she said.

Awkwardness and cynicism

For Sneha Shrestha, 18, from Kirtipur, Dashain is one of the few times during the year when she can meet far-flung relatives. “It’s really a special time because I get to meet all my different relatives whose faces I haven’t seen for months,” she said, “But at the same time I have come to realise that there is also a sense of awkwardness meeting to get tika at different relatives’ houses.”

A culture of not visiting each other very much has resulted in a distance between Sneha and her relatives.

“As a child one doesn’t care much for these things. But these days, I have started to realise a kind of boundary between me and my relatives. When I meet them in large groups, I realise that I don’t really know these people as well as I would want to and that makes for a very awkward atmosphere,” she stated. But despite that, she tends to spend all day at different relatives’ homes making the most out of her visit.

On the other hand, Yukta Sharma, 19, from Maitidevi reveals that Dashain is her least favourite festival. “All the different pujas and going for the Navratri seem nice, but the fake sense of camaraderie and familial love is what really ruins it for me,” she shared, “They make a big deal out of Dashain only to come together and waste time in various inanities.”

And even the tika which many find precious is only a sign of wastefulness to Yukta. “There is so much rice that is being wasted on the forehead full of tikas. I can’t help but think of all the people who could be fed and the amount of rice that is wasted in this one futile gesture all across the country,” she opined.

And the idea that Dashain is the time to spend time with family also seems needless to Yukta, who asks — do you really need Dashain to spend time with family?

“People talk behind each others’ back all year round only to come together during this time to make a great show of togetherness. People feel bound with a sense of responsibility to visit their aged parents during this festival, but there is no such compulsion during other times of the year. Would they never meet their parents if this festival didn’t exist?” she questioned.

Making the best of dakshina

Amidst the general discontent surrounding the festival, Yukta shared that the dakshina is the one good part of an otherwise wasteful and pretentious festival. “All these festivals hold significance in Nepali culture no matter what. And the tika is also an overt sign of continued familial relationship between related families. You have to go through the ceremony each year with some close relatives. Since I have to go through it any which way, I consider dakshina to be the better

part of it. In a way, the thought process I’m going through is: ‘At least I’m being paid for this torture’,”she explained.

Sneha considers the dakshina to be one of the more exciting parts of tika, although getting a gift of a large sum is a rare occasion for her. “From the moment I get the money in my hand, I start planning about what I’m going to do with it,” she shared adding, “I get really excited thinking about what I’d like to buy with it. I usually save up the money and go shopping for clothes.”

As a dog-lover, Deepa usually puts her dakshina earnings towards taking care of street dogs in her locality. “Even on normal days I take care of the street dogs in my area. And during festival time, I use my dakshina money to buy food for those dogs,” she shared enthusiastically, “I don’t have a lot of need for the money myself, so I give most of it to my mother, and if I have some small amount left, I just keep that to myself.”

Cherished memories

Adding to the special allure of Dashain are the special memories which find life again in repeating the same motions in future years, as well as fun stories to tell.

Grishma remembered her favourite and most enjoyable moments have been in trying the Dashain games even though she was not much experienced in them. “This very last year, I tried my hand at flying kites even though I did not know how to fly them. It was a really fun experience despite not really knowing how to. I also got on the high swings last year. Despite being very scared, it was exhilarating and remains my favourite part of that year’s Dashain,” she shared.

And she is still teased about an incident from her childhood where she nearly cried after being given a very small amount as dakshina. “We were at a relative’s place and as an unaware child getting only Rs 5 as dakshina made me sad and I almost cried. They quickly added some amount to make me happy, but these days when I think of that moment it really makes me laugh. My parents keep teasing me about this incident and make me feel quite embarrassed yet this is one of those bitter-sweet moments to be cherished,” she shared.

Sneha remembered the pleasure of going out with her older cousins as one of her most pleasant Dashain memories. “We went to different places in Harisiddhi about two years ago. It was a moment where I could enjoy myself easily and felt comfortable with my cousins. And the sense of togetherness came with a different happiness,” she remembered.