At the Divya Dham Temple in Woodside, Queens, the Nepalese community gathered for the annual Dashain celebration on Oct. 6th. The 15-day religious festival is the biggest and longest auspicious celebration in the Nepalese calendar and traditionally thousands flock to the temples to take part in religious ceremonies and bring with them abundant offerings of fruits, dairy products, and homemade sweets to the deities. The festival falls around September –October, starting from the bright lunar fortnight and ending on the day of the full moon.
The most popular deity that is worshiped is Goddess Durga, who symbolizes invincible power and patience. The worshipers bring with them silver plates filled with various religious offerings to give to the goddess during the pooja such as flowers, incense and holy water. At Divya Dham, a Hindu temple, Nepalese families and friends from around the neighborhood gathered for the 10th night celebration of Dashain as they huddled in a circle around the goddess while the priest chanted religious scriptures and blessed the crowd. Women adorned in traditional bright red saris and vibrant jewelry were among the sea of colorful participants.
Towards the end of the ceremony, the priest blessed the people in the crowd with Tika, which is made of white rice grains and red colored powder mixed in yogurt and placed on the middle of forehead in small amounts. During Dashain, Tika is usually given to the younger members of the family by the elders who give blessings of longevity and a prosperous life. It is believed that Goddess Durga bestowed ‘shakti’ (power) to the Nepalese during Dashain.