For Nepalese Community in Queens, Religious Festival Strengthens Cultural Ties

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This article originally appeared on Voices of NY.

In just a little over a decade, the Nepalese community has flourished in Queens. Many call the borough their home and still manage to preserve the rich culture they have grown up with in the tiny landlocked country tucked away in the Himalayas.

Traces of this can be seen in community gatherings celebrating festivals like ‘Dashain,’ the most popular festival for the Nepalese. For the thousands of them who have immigrated to the States over the years, Dashain brings back memories of flying kites out on the terraces of their houses, and playing cards all throughout the day and into the wee hours of the night. It means being engulfed by the smell of  “kashi ko masu,” goat meat, wafting through the kitchen as it is being prepared. But most importantly, it’s a form of thanksgiving where entire families come together and enjoy big feasts while receiving blessings from their elders.  The younger ones receive ‘Tika’ – rice grains and red powder mixed in yogurt that are placed on the center of the forehead in small amounts with blessings of prosperity and longevity – and some money from their elders.


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And even though these sights are a distant memory to the Nepalese here, their traditions and culture remain.

At the Divya Dham Temple in Woodside, Queens, they gathered for the annual Dashain celebration on October 6. The 15-day religious festival is the biggest and longest auspicious celebration in the Nepalese calendar.  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 in the festival is Goddess Durga, who symbolizes invincible power and patience. The worshipers usually bring silver plates filled with   religious offerings to give to the goddess, such as flowers, incense and holy water when they visit the temples, also known as mandirs, during the festival.

Women wear the traditional garb, saris, which usually are red to symbolize the auspicious occasion. Namrata Sen, of Forest Hills, said she looked forward to gatherings a…


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