Rituals, traditions and beliefs are words we repeatedly use in order to explain our various cultural practices. Sometimes we even tag these words along, especially when we fail to understand the meaning behind certain practices; “Oh, it’s just a tradition”. How often do we wish to understand the significance of the rituals that are carried out? Are we obedient or indifferent? Most of the festivals we celebrate today have significant meanings that most of us are unaware of. Our main festival Dashain commemorates the victory of good over evil. It is the time when we recall the story of Ramayana and worship Goddess Durga who proved her defeat over Mahisasur, the Demon who was slayed on the tenth day of the battle. Dashain is much more significant to us today not because of what Lord Ram or Goddess Durga did but because it is allows families to come together for a couple of days despite being continents apart. The exhilaration of the festival is to be with family members, get into our new attires and play cards rather than pay attention to the epics. As these moments of merry making do bind families together, it is also making us oblivious towards the fading importance of our festivals and the obvious reasons behind these celebrations.
While interrogating my grandfather about various festivals, I realized that most of the practices that are involved within them have changed over time. And the most important element that I could pinpoint as a reason to these changes is convenience. We have modified various cultural practices according to our convenience. The most fascinating of it was why Chaite Dashain isn’t celebrated with the same pomp and rigor as we celebrate Vijaya Dashami. Chaite Dashain as the name suggests is another Dashain that falls during the last month of the Nepali calendar, Chait. Chaite Dashain is celebrated as Ram's victory over Ravan or as Ramnavami. Chait is the busiest month for the farmers in a country that largely depends on agriculture. It marks the beginning of the yearly collection of crops that have grown after months of cultivation. The farmers are busy collecting and stocking these crops as well as planting new ones for the upcoming season. As the farmers would have been occupied with their agricultural practices during those days, there wasn’t enough time to prepare for the festival, hence this Dashain had been postponed by six months, and therefore we celebrate it as Vijaya Dashami. This shift in celebration dates back to long ago when again the changes were made according to time convenience. Another interesting example is that of Teej and how our practices of the same have transformed over time. Teej is a very auspicious occasion within the patriarchal Hindu society of Nepal. Married women fast for the wellbeing of their husbands and the unmarried ones do so to pray for a good husband as they worship Lord Shiva. The Teej festival originally lasted for three days, the first day when the women went back to their maternal homes for a feast, popularly known as Dar Khani to be followed by a strict no water, no food fast known as “Nirjala Barta” the next day. The third day marked the breaking of the fasts when women did so by drinking water off their husbands’ feet. Most of these practices don’t exist today like they did a few decades ago. The “Dar Khani” tradition begins weeks before Teej and it is no longer confined to the maternal homes. The invitations range from family to friends and even colleagues at work. On, the other hand, the fasting isn’t as rigid as it used to be. Women have started consuming fruits and tea. There may be health reasons associated with these changes but we can see how quickly we have been heading towards flexibility in traditions. Drinking water off the husbands’ feet is also no longer practiced while breaking the fast. Is this disobeying tradition or defying the patriarchal norm? Because women today are no longer as dependent on their husbands as they were earlier. Well, these amendments in cultural practices are not just a result of seeking convenience but also due to the new societal trends.
Various obligations and work commitments have compelled us to adjust accordingly to our traditional practices. Some are gradually making these alterations while some are still dedicated to the old rituals. The latter is compelled to do so in order to keep the traditions alive, adhering to the rules of the family. Due to time restrictions and scattered families, the older generations haven’t been able to convey the age old traditions practiced by the family. Thus today the traditions are followed and rituals are practiced out of pure compulsion and formality.