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Crossing borders: Nepali Students celebrate holy festival, share traditions
Skylar Leatherman
Antelope Staff
Photo by Skylar Leatherman
Purnima Shrestha, a sophomore nursing major from Kathmandu, Nepal, dances to a traditional Nepalese song during the Dashain Tihar Night celebration. Nepali students celebrated holidays from Nepal to introduce their culture to students and faculty on campus.

Every country has its own holidays, but not all holidays are similar.

On Nov. 19 Nepali students at UNK celebrated Dashain Tihar Night, a holy festival, with faculty and students.

The students celebrated in the Cedar room of the student union. They provided authentic Nepalese cuisine and traditional song and dance. To introduce their culture to students and faculty on campus.

Dashain is celebrated in October and is one of the most important celebrations of the year in Nepal. The celebration lasts 15 days and commemorates a great victory of the gods over demons.

The legend tells the story of Ramayan who was the only god able to kill Ravana, the king of the demons, when the goddess Durga was evoked. The entire event is seen as a celebration of good over evil and is symbolized by the goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahisasur who terrorized the earth in the disguise of a water buffalo.

On the first day of the celebration, the Kalash, which is a holy water vessel symbolizing goddess Durga, is placed in a prayer room also known as Dashain Ghir. Women are not allowed to enter this room. A priest or a household man worships the Kalash every day in the morning and evening.

The first nine days signify the nine days of furious battle between the goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur, and lead to the tenth day when the demon was killed. The last five days symbolize the celebration and victory with the blessing of the goddess. Goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess. On the eighth day, many orthodox Hindus will fast, and animal sacrifices are held in almost every house throughout the day.

In preparation for Dashain every home is cleaned and decorated with paint as an invitation to the goddess that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune.

The focus turns toward family on the tenth day of the celebration.

“My favorite part of Dashin is Tika, when we get blessings from elders,” said Purnima Shrestha, a sophomore nursing major from Kathmandu, Nepal. The elders bless each family member in each home. This process takes about four days.

Tihar is a festival of lights in November, and this is the second largest celebration of the year in which animals are honored. During the five-day celebration, people worship Laxmi, the goddess of wealth.

“We make delicious food, light candles, oil lamps and other lights to illuminate the whole place,” Shrestha said. All houses are cleaned and decorated with lights and believe that goddess Laxmi will enter the house that is the cleanest and brightest, and her blessings will make the family healthy and prosperous.

Crows, dogs, and cows are worshiped and honored for their benefits to humans. Crows are regarded as the messengers that bring news even during the times when there were no postmen and no postal services. Crows are fed and kept happy to bring good luck and keep away grief and death. Dogs are the most obedient and they guard houses. The cow is a symbol of wealth in Hinduism and the national animal of Nepal.

“My favorite part of Tihar is Bhai Tika brother’s day,” Shrestha said. During this day, sisters put a tika on the forehead of their brothers to ensure long life and thank them for the protection that they give. A tika is a red dot of vermilion applied to the forehead, between the eyebrows. When the sisters give the tika, the brothers give gifts or money as a return. A special flower necklace is also made for the brothers.

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