Dashain (sometimes spelt Dasain but the pronunciation is the same!) took place during the last complete week of October, and is Nepal's biggest festival; millions of Nepals return to their homes, Kathmandu virtually empties and most non-essential services grind to a halt for at least 7 days of the 15-day long celebration.
Celebrating the Goddess Durga of Victory of Good over Evil, thousands of animals are sacrificed as an offering to the Gods and as part of the celebration; and gambling and marijuana are (seemingly) legalised for one day, or at least the police turn a temporary blind eye! For families it is a time of celebration and reunion and blessings, culminating in the placing of red Tikka (rice past mixture) on each others forehead, a wheat sheaf behind the ear or in the hair, and a small token amount of money - wishing blessings on each other for the year ahead and celebrating the harvest.
Friday the 19th October was the last day that our school was open, and took on a very Christmassy feel as the kids watched movies in the morning, were blessed at lunchtime and then dispatched early in the ram-packed 'minibus' (6 seater, but kids are small, right, we can fit at least 20 in there?)...
or taken home by motorcycle:
After the children had departed, the teaching staff and supporting staff had a big meal together, followed by blessings and the application of Tikka onto everyone by the Chairman of the school.
Here are some of the teaching staff:
This is what the application of Tikka looks like (onto our cook Romela) and also the manager Bal after his successful blessing!
Entering into the spirit of the occasion, Nicky and Alfie both decided to get Tikka'd as well and the Chairman was more than happy to oblige.
However, not being a Hindu and also not really understanding the tradition, I declined the experience myself and elected just to take photos and be encouraging to my friends! I don't think that's a decision I'll particularly regret - but it did take a bit of soul-searching. I think in the end though, since I don't consider myself a religious person, and this not being my cultural identity (even though I am now part of the culture), I think I am happy with declining. Otherwise I would have sat there feeling a little bit like a fool, or a fraud, neither of which are things I want to be! And when I see other tourists (for that is what we are, at the end of the day) wandering around with Thamel with Tikkas on their forehead, I can't help thinking 'just who do you think you're kidding?'.
But what do you think about this?