Wednesday, 28 October, 2020

Celebrating Dashain Amidst Virus Threat

Parmeshwar Devkota

Dashain, the biggest festival of Nepalis, has begun but there is no festive mood and enthusiasm among the people, as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented threat to their life. People are even hesitating in extending and accepting Dashain greetings.
Festivals are the rituals celebrated for happiness, good health and socio-cultural reunion of people. If you recall your childhood, you find social environment and economic status different from that of now. In the ancient time, demons and deities used to live side by side, posing a threat to their own existence, according to our religious scriptures. Our forefathers might have fought vehemently to save the human civilisation.
Had Lord Krishna not defeated notorious demon Kansa, the Dwapar era would have been very different. So was the case with the Treta yuga when Lord Rama killed 10-headed Rawana, who was known for his destructive ego and power.
Had Indra not defeated Vritasura, the heavenly deities would have suffered much. Had Shailaputri, Bhrahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kusmanda, Skandamata, Katyani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri not defeated Mahisasur, Sumbha, Nishumba and Chanda-Munda and many others, the Satya yuga would not have been as it was. We can contextualise the aforementioned incidents with World War II. Had Hitler not been defeated, the world would have endured unbearable sufferings and cruelty at the hands of most brutal dictator of the 20th century.
Our forebears were forced to lead a nomadic life in the absence sufficient knowledge, resources and weapons. They endured harsh nature and fought dangerous animals and cruel demons. Due to external and internal fears, they might have worshipped super human forces. As for example, Lord Rama had worshiped Goddess Siddhidatri before heading to fight with the giant king Rawana. The idols of Goddesses are the symbolic incarnation of Shakti (power). Dashain manifest the victory of gods over monsters. It also signifies the victory of good over evil.
As pundit Ram Prasad Dhungana says, the Khas-Aryan civilisation is not confined to a single god and theory. Rather, there are various gods, goddesses and sects in it. Among them, the worshippers of Goddess as mentioned above are called Shakti worshippers. They prefer animal sacrifice during the festivals, symbolising the defeat of demons. It also indicates the vanishing of ignorance, purification of heart and absolution from sins.
Therefore, animal sacrifice has become an important part of festivals. If an animal welfare campaigner or an organisation stands against it, this may be considered as an attack on their culture. Animals are reared and used for their meat. But animal rights groups are against killing and eating animals, arguing that it is cruelty on the innocent creatures. However, their campaign clashes with the rituals of majority of Hindus. Animal activists are also accused of being hypocrites and running their drive to make a fast buck.
Every generation has suffered from one or another kind of disaster but this has not hindered them from celebrating Dashain. Though we have been suffering from COVID-19, we need to observe this festival in a modest way. A Lebanese poet makes a point here: "Some of you say that joy is greater than sorrow while others say, nay sorrow is greater. But I think they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.’’ 

How do you feel after reading this news?