As I checked my Facebook account on coming home from Delhi earlier this month for the great festival, I bumped into a status of a close friend. It read: Dashain aayo, khaunla piunla’ ssComments flooded in soon, many wishing her a joyous Dashain while others remarked on how the famous saying had lost much of its charm.
‘Dashain has become more of obligatory rather than celebratory these days’, many say as the festival approaches every year. This time too, it was no different. One of my friends said to me, ‘The charisma and sheen of Dashain is drowning down with every passing year. I simply don’t experience the same kind of excitement when we were kids’. Strolling through some Nepali blogs, I find bloggers expressing similar views. They opine that the real essence of the festival has been long lost and today, it has become materialistic and only a medium to show off!
I beg to differ. Yes, it might be true that the celebrations have changed to some extent, compared to the Dashains of our forefathers’ time. But the festival still holds the same religious and cultural values today as it used to. A few examples would help to illustrate the fact. A large number of people heading back to their villages during the festival is one. Crowded public vehicles with passengers dangling on to the doors and sitting on the hoods are a common sight around Dashain time. Had the cultural values of Dashain eroded such zeal and eagerness to get back home simply to receive the auspicious tika and re-unite with their loved ones would most likely not have been seen. The huge crowd and the long queues in Bhagwati temples are proof of the still existing religious quintessence. And although I detest the practice of animal sacrifice to the maximum, the fact that they still remain an important part of the religious offering during Dashain is another proof that the festival still has religious values.
Apart from tika and jamara, gambling and boozing has always been a part of the festivity. It would be completely wrong to conclude that Dashain these days is all about drinking and gambling only. Of course there have always been people who have taken undue advantage of the event. Nevertheless since the earlier times, playing cards, kauda, langur burja and drinking and feasting on sweets and festival foods have remained an inextricable part of the festival. And the festival becoming materialistic bereft of cultural and sentimental values? Hasn’t the Dashain excitement always been about buying new clothes, showing them off, getting all keyed up about the total Dakshina?
Talking about Dashain celebrations, one activity that has definitely seen a decline in recent years is kite-flying. The bright blue sky which used to be adorned with colourful kites was almost absent this time around. But with the surging popularity of computer, television and video games, you can’t blame the kids. Neither would it be justifiable to say that this has decreased the cultural value of the festival. With tempting technology, it is quite natural for kids to pay less heed to activities like kite-flying. But with ‘kite-flying events’ trying to restore this culture, we can be hope that in the future it would be able to draw the attention of children and that colourful kites would charm the sky once again.
Most importantly for each and every Nepali, Dashain has remained that one time of the year when all the sorrows, grief and hardships are forgotten and togetherness and happiness is celebrated. This foremost essence of Dashain has never changed and will perhaps never change in the future.