In Sikkim, tourists have plenty of things to explore. The landlocked beautiful state is loved for its awesome wildlife, biodiversity zones and vast mountain ranges. However, the cultural diversity and heritage of Sikkim is also mind blowing. The tribes and residents celebrate various Buddhist and regional festivals all over the year. These festivals reflect cultural richness and diversity of the state. One such example is the yearly Dashain festival.
Basics of Dashain in Sikkim
While the majority of population in Sikkim is Buddhists, a considerable number of Hindus also reside in the state. Influences of adjacent Nepal and West Bengal have also seeped in culture of Sikkim over the centuris. Dashain is one major Hindu festival celebrated with pomp and enthusiasm in Sikkim very year. It is a colorful festival and comprises of 15 days. It usually takes place in mid September to early October.
Related: Durga Puja in North East India
During and before Dashain, the households are cleansed and adorned to welcome the goddess. Relatives visit each other and gifts are exchanged during the time. For the celebrations plenty of animals and birds are slaughtered as well. Every section of the society indulges in feast and merriment during the festival days. Most schools, institutions and offices remains closed on the days.
The Dashain Festival has plenty of similarities with another major Indian festival, Durga Puja and they actually coincide. The theme is the same- victory of the divine power over evil force. While the main theme is Goddess Durga slaying the buffalo headed demon Mahishasur- the legend of Ram slaying fiendish demon Ravana is also associated with the festival. The first nine days symbolize those nine days of terrible battle that took place between the goddess and Mahisasur. The 10th day is indicative of slaying of the demon and rest 5 days symbolizes celebration of the triumph along with blessing of the deity.
How Dashain is celebrated in Sikkim
The first day of Dashain is when grains are sown in soil, indicative of good harvest and it is called Ghatasthapana. In fact, the first 9 days are known as nawa ratri and these are replete with ancient rituals. In some temples, a sacred Kalash is used to represent the goddess.
On the Ghatasthapana day, priests place a sacred kalash filled with holy water in a room named 'Dashain Ghar'. On each day beginning from the first, rituals are observed until the seventh day.
Related: Navaratri in North East India
The 7th day is named as 'Fulpati'. On this day, parades are held in Gangtok and prominent towns in Sikkim. People wear traditional attire and ornaments on these festive days. The Kaalsh is filled with holy water, accompanied by sugar cane and banana stalks. It is placed in a decorated palanquin and carried by the priests. This day also marks beginning of Dashain feasting.
The eighth day of the festival is known as 'Maha Asthami'. On this day, animal sacrifices take place and some pious families fast. The night is called 'Kal Ratri'.
The next and ninth day is known as 'Nawami'. On this day, thousands of people visit the temples to worship the deity. Animal sacrifices take place on this day as well. The God of creativity, Vishwas Karma, is also worshipped on this day.
Related: 10 Reasons Why Diwali Is Celebrated
The following day is called 'Dashami'. On this day, relatives visit each other and family elders bless the younger ones. Sacred tika is smeared on foreheads of the children and younger members of family by the elderly people. This continues for the remaining four days. The 15th day is the last day of Dashain and it usually falls on a full moon day. On this day, the goddess of wealth, Laxmi is also worshipped.