As the week of holiday progressed, we started to learn more about the various rituals and traditions involved. Many shrines were set up, temples were painted and re-vamped, and marigold garlands could be seen all around. Every morning, we awoke to new, freshly-picked marigolds on our doorstep–a Dashain blessing from Aama (meaning “mother,” but actually the grandmother at our house who clearly runs the show). When relatives arrived from across the country to celebrate the holiday, she had two vases of flowers at each entryway, as a blessing to those who had traveled to be here. Though the family all gathered for the holiday, no one was allowed to dance or sing this year, as one of the family elders had passed away. Whenever a family member dies, everyone observes a year or mourning, during which they are not supposed to do anything festive, as a matter of respect.
Another form of blessing, which is practiced at most holidays, as well as when people set off on a journey, is the giving of तिलक (tikka). Traditionally, the eldest person is supposed to give tikka to younger people. At the hospital, this tradition took the form of us going around to all of the patients and Greg (Country Director) offering them tikka. When we got to the bed of this bua (meaning “father,” but used to respectfully address any elderly man), a huge smile crossed his face, and he took on the responsibility of giving tikka to everyone. His wife told us that he had been waiting all day to give tikka, and he was truly a pro–chanting all of the traditional mantras to go along with the ceremony.
Following the tikka event at the hospital, we all piled into a jeep and drove to our house, where our landlord had invited everyone for a Dashain party (that did not include dancing or singing, but was still very festive). We ate plenty of good food, and shared good company until the small hours of the morning.
Though in the upcoming festival of Tihar (which is actually this week…posts to follow) there is a special day for worshipping dogs, we thought we would still give tikka to Aloo (“potato”), our favorite hospital dog.