Tika and jamara are two important ingredients of Dashain, without which the great festival of Hindus remains incomplete. People receive distinctive red splotches of tika (a mixture of vermilion powder, rice and yoghurt) on their foreheads, and jamara (barley and maize sprouts) on their heads. Though tika and jamara are the main and unique aspects of Dashain, we should not forget the cultural aspect connected with Tika and Jamara. On the tenth day of Dashain, the auspicious tika is received as the offering of goddess Durga after the completion of nine days long worship to the goddess.
Dashain is the most celebrated festival among the Hindus of Nepal. Like many festivals, it is also based on the lunar calendar and falls in the months of Ashwin or Kartik( according to Nepali dates) and between September and October. It marks the victory of the goddess Durga over the Demon Mahisasur. It signifies the victory of Good over Evil. The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana, which means the setting of an auspicious pot. On this day, the Kalash (holy water vessel) symbolising goddess Durga often with her image embossed on the side is placed in the prayer room. Then, until the nine days (Navami), people worship the Kalash, the symbol of Durga.
The festival is observed for a fortnight, and the first nine days are called Navaratri. The goddess Durga is worshipped during these days. People also visit the temple of the gods and goddesses. Since she is also regarded as the blood loving Goddess, people offer blood by sacrificing different animals in front of the image of the Goddess Nawadurga. The last two days of Navaratri are observed with great festivity. And from the tenth day (Dashami) onwards people used to put tika and jamara on their forehead as the Prasad (offering) of goddess Durga. There are different practises in different communities about the aspect Dashain Tika.
For A Day Or Five Days?
All the family members who stay away from the ancestral or family homes, gather together and receive tika and blessing from the elder members from the day of Dashami till the full moon day or Purnima. Different trends are followed depending on the place and ethnicity regarding receiving the auspicious Dashain Tika.
Dashain is celebrated by Nepali Hindus belonging to all castes and regions across the country. But, there varies the way of getting tika. Some people adhere to the practice of limiting the Dashain Tika only for the day of Dashami while some opt to receive tikas for five days.
There are no certain rules when it comes to limiting Dashain Tika for a day. But mainly the Brahmin people of places west of Kathmandu tend to receive tika and Jamara only on Dashami day while people of other ethnicities of the same geography have been following the practices of receiving the tika up to Purnima or for five days. However, the people of eastern Nepal from Kathmandu go on receiving tika and jamara up to the final five days of Dashain.
Dr Pramod Vardhan Kaundinnyayan, a cultural expert, said as there is multi-diversity in the Hindu religion, there is no fixed rule in the practice. Kaundinnyayan further said no religious text was written in detail about receiving tika and jamara for one day and five days. Therefore, it is based on practices followed by our ancestors.
He further said the value of tika received on the Dashami day is higher than the ones received on the other five days. Because of its utmost importance, people who have to go on visiting relatives and family members prefer to receive tika and jamara for five days. On Dashami day, they prefer to receive tika from the seniors of the families. On other days, they go on visiting relatives and other seniors for the same purpose. Madhav Prasad Lamichhane, assistant professor of Balmiki Campus, also supported the logic of Kaundinnyayan. Lamichhane said tika continue up to Purnima because of the practical reasons as 15-day long Dashain ends on the day of Purnima.
During the last decade, as the world has started becoming a global village, the kith and kin started living abroad. For those who live far from families and could not come to the family on Dashami day, the five days of tika and jamara rituals appear very practical. Lamichhane said due to the flexibility of the Hindu religion, people follow many rituals at their convenience.
However, changing people's beliefs regarding culture and tradition is a difficult proposition. Srijana Dhakal, a native of Gorkha who tied her nuptial knot to a boy from Jhapa, felt like crying while celebrating Dashain for the first time at her husband's home. She found the differences in observing the Dashain festival between her parental home and her husband's home.
She shared that she did not feel at home when she saw her in-laws receiving Dashain tika for five days as she was accustomed to celebrating it for only a day- the Dashami day. At her parental home, people would come to receive tika and jamara throughout the day, giving them the true Dashain vibes. However, as the years passed, she has adjusted her culture of observing the tika for five days.
No matter what way tika and jamara are received, it ritual brings happiness of the reunion among the distant and nearby relatives at every household. The festival of Dashain reinvigorates people with new energy for the whole year. The happiness among people is reflected in the fact that every house dons a clean look while people are clad in new clothes and engage in savouring sumptuous foods to mark the occasion. Offices, schools, colleges and public institutions observe long festival holidays, which they utilise to be among the relatives to celebrate the most important Hindu festival in the country.