Prayers, music, food and pageantry signal beginning of 2-week Dashain festival for Nepalis
This week, the Vermont’s Nepali Hindu community begins its two-week observance of Dashain – the celebration of good’s perennial victory over evil.
On Saturday, the Nepalis, many of whom arrived here as refugees from Bhutan, combined piety and prayers with great food, bright colors, incense, upbeat music and dance in Burlington.
The newly formed Vermont Hindu Temple hosted the festival at the former St. Joseph School in the New North End with about 100 people in attendance.
Basu Dhakal, one of the temple’s organizers, said his community had slowly come to appreciate a measure of economic security and even prosperity.
But, Dhakal added, “We feel a spiritual vacuum. For us, it’s impossible to separate our way of life from our culture and our religion.”
Chandra Pokhrel welcomed visitors to the kitchen, where he served Nepali bread (puris), vegetable curry (subzi) and a milky rice dessert (kheer).
In one corner of the cafeteria and stage space stood a small alter to Durga, the Hindu goddess whose role in Dashain is elevated by her legendary ferocity. Way way back, they say, she singlehandedly smote down a bull-demon that had been plaguing humanity.
Durga appears in the Hindu pantheon with different names. Among them, Parvati, Kali and Shakti — and they variously evoke a spectrum of compassion and fury.
On Saturday, Durga was smiling, surrounded by offerings of fruit, flowers and lit lamps. So was Naramaya Adakari, who tended the lamps and candles.
Adakari looked calm and happy. She broke into a broad smile when she hitched up her sari a little and joined in the dancing.
This story was first published online on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015.