Celebrate the Hindu Festival of Dashain in DSM USA
Did you know that since 2015, Asian Indian is the largest Asian community in the State of Iowa? This week sees the start of Dashain (also referred to as Vijaya Dasami or Durga Puja), a 15-day Hindu festival.
About the Dashain Festival
This celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Throughout the kingdom of Nepal, the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable religious offerings.
It is the longest and the most auspicious festival celebrated by Nepalese people, along with their diaspora throughout the globe. People return from all parts of the world, as well as different parts of the country, to celebrate together. All government offices, educational institutions and other offices remain closed during the festival period.
Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorized the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo.
The first nine days signify the ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The 10th day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolize the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.
In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to the mother goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune. During this time, the reunion of distant and nearby relatives occurs in every household. The market is filled with shoppers seeking new clothing, gifts, luxuries and enormous supplies of temple offering for the gods, as well as foodstuffs for the family feasting.
Highlights of Dashain
Hindus in India celebrate a slight variation of the same festival and is called Dussehra. Special prayer offerings of goddess Durga is the highlight of the festival. Family get togethers, exchanging gifts, elders sharing blessings to younger ones are some ways people celebrate this festival.
Sept. 21 marks the first day of Durga Puja/Dashain/Dussehra. Main festivities occur on Sept. 30 when most Nepalese Americans and Bhutanese Americans will be celebrating this festival in their homes, wearing ethnic clothes, getting together with family and eating ethnic food. It is customary for elders to put on Tika, a mixture of red vermilion, rice and water, and exchange gifts or money.
Check out Des Moines’ Hindu temple for a schedule of all the celebrations going on.
If you see any Nepalese Americans, Bhutanese Americans or Indian Americans of Hindu faith, please wish them a Happy Dashain or Happy Dussehra!
Note: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 Iowa’s Asian Indian population is approximately 20,000. Anecdotally there are approximately 4,500 Bhutanese Americans and approximately 600 Nepalese Americans living in the state of Iowa.