Dashain Festival is a 15-day period of celebration kept mostly by Hindus living in Bhutan, many of whom are of Nepali or Indian descent. Dashain is arguably the most important Hindu festival of the year in Bhutan.
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Dashain is celebrated all over Bhutan, but especially in the southern parts of the country. Observant Hindus will keep all 15 days, but it is the tenth day, known as Vijayadashami, that is the true highlight.
While all Hindus, and even some non-Hindus, might take part in Dashain events, it’s technically a celebration of the “Shaktism” sect within Hinduism, which focuses its attention on worshiping various goddesses, such as Lakshmi or Kali.
The first nine days of Dashain symbolise a nine-day battle between good and evil – that is, between the goddess Durga and the demon Mahishasura. On day one, a special pot (kalash) is filled with holy water and sown with seeds that will sprout during the days ahead.
On day 10 of Dashain, elders place “tika” on the foreheads of younger relatives to bless them. They also give them words of blessing and small gifts of money. Tika consists of a mix of rice, yogurt, and vermilion. The tika is red to symbolise the blood of familial bonds. This is the day on which Durga is thought to have defeated the demon-king of the underworld.
On day 15, many stay up all night because it is believed that the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, will bless those she finds awake when she visits on this final day of Dashain Festival.