The Amazing Jyväskylä!

The Amazing Jyväskylä!
Me at the harbor of Jyväskylä

01 October, 2014

Dashain and a stronger sense of home ...

It’s the seventh day of Dashain festival in Nepal. It is the most important traditional holiday of Nepal that lasts for 15 days, an equivalence with Lunar New Year in Vietnam or Christmas in the West. This holiday celebrates the defeat of devils. The Goddess that is worshiped during this holiday is Durga, Mother of the universe. She is believed to be the force behind the power of creation, preservation and destruction which are represented by Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva respectively. The word "Durga" in Sanskrit means a fort, or a place which is difficult to overrun. Another meaning of "Durga" is "Durgatinashini," which literally translates into "the one who eliminates sufferings." Thus, Hindus believe that goddess Durga protects her devotees from the evils of the world and at the same time removes their miseries.

During this festival, what Nepali do the most is flying kites, which is meant to send a message to the God to stop sending rain down to the valley. Children enjoy playing with their giant bamboo swing. The sacrifice of goats’ blood to Durga and Kali Goddess. These Goddesses are known to fight the devils with their thirst of blood and furiousness. 

The children enjoy playing with their bamboo swing in my neighborhood

There’s an interesting story about Kali though. When the earth was invaded by devils, Kali – as an incarnation of Durga – came down to earth to fight the devils and free humans. She was strong and undefeatable. However, she was into the killing too deeply and got carried on too far to the point that she was killing humans as well. Shiva saw that and jumped under her feet when she was stomping on earth. When Kali looked down, the interference of Shiva awoke her from her uncontrollable anger and she stopped the killing. That’s why the most common statue of kali that we see depicts a Goddess holding human heads and one of her feet on Shiva.

Animation of Goddess Durga
Animation of Goddess Kali

A similar feature between Dashain and other traditional holidays in the world is that people go back to their hometown or visit their relatives. The women, of course, work their tails off in the kitchen to feed everyone during these gatherings.

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to a Nepali family to celebrate Dashain with them on the seventh day – one of the most important days of Dashain. It’s a traditional family: parents and 2 sons. I am the only friend of the younger son who invited me to their house; he works with me in the office. The rest of the guests were the oldest son’s friends from work and a group he often socializes with. When I was invited, the guy told me there would be all foreigners. So, I guessed he thought I would be more comfortable socializing with other foreigners living in Kathmandu. Well, I actually ended up spending most of my time hanging out with his cousins because I was not comfortable with the foreigners. I also enjoyed hanging around his mother when she was cooking. It made me a little bit homesick actually. But I felt like at home. In the end, she asked me to come back to have rice with them some other time; she said: "You are now our daughter, right?". I was really overwhelmed.

The father was delighted when he found out that I was from Vietnam because in the 70s, he studied with lots of Vietnamese in St. Peter Burg under Soviet Union time. He still even remembers some Vietnamese words after all these years. In fact, he was so delighted that he soon introduced me to the foreign guests as his daughter, which really took me by surprise and surely confused the guests tremendously. He told me that he had true respect for Ho Chi Minh. It made me so happy. It’s endearing that he and his wife really tried to pronounce my name correctly. Their son (the one that works with me) for some reason has no trouble pronouncing my name. I had not really noticed it until today. While seeing his parents, his older brother and other foreign guests struggling to pronounce my name, I suddenly remembered that from day one, he has been calling my name correctly with no effort at all. Strange! 

So, my friend, the only person I knew in the house, spent the whole afternoon flying kites with his bother’s friends on the roof top. His mother told me that this was the first time after 3 years that he got to enjoy Dashain since he had been studying in India until last July. I joined in with others on the roof top a few times. The rest of the afternoon, I was watching TV and talking with my friend’s cousins downstairs. They were very lovely kids whose English was excellent.

I am excited now because during this holiday, one of my friends will leave me her scooter since she won’t be in Kathmandu but will go back to her hometown with her husband and baby. I will get to go around the city on a scooter, which I haven’t been able to do for such a long time now. It should be fun! 

And my best friend is coming. I can't wait to see her. It's been over a year now!

1 comment:

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