Right now, the people of Nepal are gearing up for their longest and largest festival. Dashain runs for 15 days and commemorates the victories of good over evil, with an emphasis on bringing families together.
Dashain starts from the bright lunar fortnight and lasts until the day of the full moon. This year, the festival falls on 28 September and people of all ages, creeds and castes will converge on Nepal to take part.
One of the victory stories behind Dashain is called the Ramayan. This tells the story of lord Ram, who had a long battle with the fiendish king of demons, Ravana. It was only after he evoked the spirit of the goddess Durga that he was able to finally kill the demon.
The first nine days of Dashain are called Nawa Ratri, and signify the ferocious battle between goddess Durga and the demon. Over these nine days, the people of Nepal pay homage to the goddess. It is thought that if she is pleased then good fortunes are on the way but if she is angered through neglect then misfortunes are around the corner.
In preparation for Dashain, every home is cleaned and decorated as an invitation to the goddess Durga to bless it with good fortune for the coming year.
In several parts of Nepal, Dashain is the only time of the year when people receive a set of new clothing. Markets are filled with shoppers buying gifts, clothing and enormous supplies of temple offerings for the gods as well as ingredients for the many feasts.
The eighth day of Dashain is known as Asthami - the day of the sacrifices. Prior to Dashain, thousands of sheep, goats, ducks, chicken and water buffalo are prepared for the great slaughter. On the eighth day, sacrifices are offered to the goddess at temples all over the Kathmandu Valley.
Many of the streets and temple floors become awash in blood, which can be very confronting for visitors. But it is important to remember these sacrifices are an integral part of a festival which has been held for hundreds of years.
On the tenth day, the festivities settle down and focus turns towards family. Elders visit each home and bless the family members, many of whom have travelled far to reunite with their loved ones.
Finally, on the fifteenth day the people of Nepal can rest. During Dashain, all the government offices, schools and other offices remain closed. But after the last day the shops are open once again and life in Nepal returns to normal.
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