People start preparing for Dashain festival before it actually sets in: family members staying away from their home for different purposes return home; people of all rank and economic status make provisions for feasting and celebration; they also clean up their houses and yards. In the rural areas the houses are painted with “Kamero” (white clay) once a year only on the occasion of Dashain. Different types of swings are installed in open fields and crossroads, especially in the villages.
As the festival falls after the end of monsoon, the farmlands and forests exhibit luxuriant greenery; the sky opens itself up in its full grandeur, cleared of haze and dust by continuous rainfall for months; the marvelous vista of the Himalayan Mountains is simply breathtaking. This time is also very suitable for mountain flights, paragliding, and other tours and activities.
Dashain does not just offer an occasion for family gatherings and celebrations. Different mythological stories surrounding it have underscored people’s faith in the festival, and its cultural and religious significance. The festival pays homage to the glory of the Goddess Durga for saving the world from the jaws of evil forces, symbolized by the demons. Not that the battle was effortless for the supreme mother goddess herself – it is believed to have raged on for nine days and nights; and the actual killings are believed to have taken place only at nights.
The rituals are believed to have emerged from the deities and people in this mythical time invoking and worshipping the mother goddess at night, gathering around her chariot. Therefore, Dashain is alternately referred to as ‘Navaratri’ and ‘Navaratha’. In the Sanskrit, ‘nava’ stands for nine, ‘ratri’ for night, and ‘ratha’ for the chariot. But these terms are misnomers as concerns the actual duration of the festival, celebrated for two weeks, beginning with Gatasthapana and ending on the full moon day. The seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth days of the Dashain – known as Foolpati, Mahaastami, Mahanawami, and Bijaya Dashami respectively – have special importance.