Festivals are an integral part in the lives of most people in Nepal. The celebrated festivals Are mostly cultural and religious. To quote our national anthem, Nepal is a garland Composed of hundreds of flowers, a metaphor of the 125 different communities living Within the geographical boundary of 147,181 sq km that comprises the current political Border of Nepal. Based on legends, these festivals have been practiced since ancient days, And their continuity has been given priority by the state as well as local communities, Making Nepal a country with a rich living heritage tradition.
Festivals are celebrated during the change of seasons, crop plantation, for personal Wellbeing and that of others, for recreation and entertainment, to appease the deities and Demons, for socio-cultural harmony, and for the salvation of departed souls. One such Festival, commemorating departed souls, falls at the end of November or early December: BalaChardurdashi. Chaturdashi is the fourteenth day of the waxing phaseof the moon According to the lunar calendar. The fifteenth day is when we have either the new moon or The full moon. This year, the festival is being observed on the 6th of December. The festival Got its name because it is celebrated a day before, or on the fourteenth day, before the new Moon of early December.
According to legends, Bala Nanda, a trader,came to AryaGhat at Pashupati Temple complex To attend the funeral of his relative. After the cremation, while eating nearby, a small piece Of a cremating body fell into his food, and unknowingly, he consumed that as he ate. Upon Consuming the meat, he transformed into an ugly demon, a cannibal who stole dead bodies From the cremation pyres. People became terrified and ran away from him. From then on, He got the name of Balasura, a combination of Bala and asura, meaning a demon in Sanskrit. The people petitioned to the king, who assigned Bala Nanda’s friend Brisha Singh To destroy the demon.
Although successful in his task, Brisha Singh was filled with remorse on betraying his Friend, and so went to the nearby Sleshmantak forest to meditate to lord Siva for Forgiveness, and also for the salvation of his friend’s soul. Pleased with his meditation, Siva Granted Brisha Singh his wish and advised him to scatter a variety of seeds in the forest, to Ease his guilt and give new life to the forest, which would provide food for the creatures Living in it. The tradition of scattering sat-bij, or seven different kinds of grains—paddy, Rice, barley, sesame, wheat, maize, and finger milletmixed with pieces of fruit, vegetables, and marigold flowers—in the forest is practiced to this day.
As the legend tells us, this festival is observed for the salvation of the soul of the deceased. People who have lost a family or relative in that year gather at the Pashupati Temple Complex the eve before the festival. They light oil lamps and chant mantras and prayers for The salvation of the souls of their departed. Thousands of people gather here for this, and The collective light is said to brighten and illuminate the path of the restless spirits to Heaven. People wait till dawn tending to their lamps, and at the break of dawn, they take a Dip in the holy Bagmati River and set out to offer the sat-bij to the various smaller temples And images of deities in and around the Pashupati Temple complex. The offering of sat-bij Is made from the recently harvested summer crop, and as per Hindu tradition, a small Portion of every fresh harvest is first offered to the gods.
A common practice of this festival is also to circumambulate the 108 Siva-lingas in the Temple complex and then set forth to the surrounding area; Gaurighat, Kirateswor Temple,Suryaghat, notably, and the Shleshmantak forest. The Siva Purana, a religious text, Mentions that donations made on this day please Lord Siva, and he grants blessing to the Donors
Another reason to observe this festival is to fulfill the Tri-rin, or three debts, that every Person following Hinduism is born with, the three debts being—devrin,pitririn, and guru rin(debt to gods, debt to ancestors, and debt to teachers). Besides the annual Shraddharitual and others, this festival helps us in the process to pay our second debt to Our ancestors. In a wider context, this festival encourages harmony with ecology via the Practice of scattering seeds for plantation in the forest, which will provide food for the Creatures living there, as well as support our efforts to balance the eco-system.
This festival is observed not only in Kathmandu, but all over Nepal, on this auspicious day. People throng nearby Siva temples, light oil lamps on the eve of the festival, and set forth to Venerate the gods for the salvation of departed souls, to offer and scatter the sat-bij to the Temples and forest, respectively.