Dashain in Secular Nepal !
Yours truly is amazed. In the midst of animal sacrifices, and recent backdrop of a riot, that ensued when the capital dwellers refused government saying – No free meat, fellas! – somebody reminded him that Nepal was secular. Goodness me, how come? Did we not take pride just a few years ago for being the only Hindu state in the world (mention of Kingdom is not hip these days)?
But it was forced on yours truly that we indeed are in a secular state and from a Hindu Kingdom we became a Himalayan Federal Democratic Republic (you can add People’s, if you wish to). And just like so many others in the nation, yours truly had to give in, accepting what was already accepted by those considered lesser humans (no wonder, Nepalis have always been called nimukha janata).
Then began the search of the meaning of secularism.
The term ‘secularism’ was first used by the British writer George Holyoake in 1846. Holyoake invented the term to describe his views of promoting a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. Later, it grew into meaning that people belonging to different faiths and sections of society are equal before the law, the Constitution and government policy.
We became a secular nation, due to certain parties’ pressure and of course without even taking the trouble of asking people for their view. For us, it is okay if so many countries remain Muslim and some remain Jewish state. In their defence, we would always say that people of other faith also live in such and such countries, without problems.
Alas! As if people of other faith had difficulty to survive here, just because they had other faiths, which the state did not endorse.
And then came Dashain, the mother of all festivals in our country, in our secular state. And we relished, in animal sacrifice, in gambling, in guzzling the holy potion, remaining intoxicated yet again. It’s amazing how the entire national wisdom goes to sleep for a fortnight every year. Maybe even wisdom goes out boozing. For we, more often than not, take in Dashain as a time ‘not to think’ but ‘drink’. (Not so long ago, this was the time of year, when now deposed monarch imposed crown on his infamous son, making him crown prince)
But this time around, the monarch had already been given a ticket to bungalow in a jungle, and his prince took time out for Singapore. What about Dashain? Dashain would come the way it has done, for centuries. For festivals and seasons do not care who is in power; but maybe festivals do. So it was time that we found a monarch. Otherwise, who would offer tika to people? And in our efforts to find a monarch, we did hit the right button (at least we hit the buttons).
Even in a country where the Prime Minister – given his people oriented orientation – swears by the people, and not god, while taking oath of the office, it was not difficult to find someone gullible.
How could we forget that we had a President? A President that was a product of ‘coalitional’ compromise; A President who has a clean image (at least cleaner than the rest); A President who would not say no to avoid confrontation; A President, who was not elected by popular vote, but was adopted by the nation without much complain; A President who has a genuine smile; A President who is a genuine people’s person.
So the new Head of the State offered tika to everyone interested. And the people attended, right from the Chief Justice to the public (who wanted to have a glimpse of People’s son as head of the state) to the Home Minister, who was more worried about cameras not being at his residence. Reminded yours truly of the glory days of the monarch, who would do the same, calm and collected, without talking too much with the people…
At the same time, the deposed monarch was also busy, offering tika to his loyalists, at a private function, at his private residence (and not the one provided by the government), celebrating Bijaya Dashami, the victory of good over evil. Only, the crowd at his celebrations was bigger.
Some say Dashain is cultural and not religious now. Agreed, but yours truly always thought Jamara and tika have religious significance too. Some say the Head of the State was carrying out a cultural tradition (though TVs showed him saying he was carrying out constitutional duties). Agreed, but yours truly always thought the King offered tika because he was considered reincarnation of a Hindu deity.
Philip Pullman, English writer and staunch secularist wrote:
“Religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good”.
But they said Nepal is a secular state!!!