Dashain Celebration among the Tamang Community and Producing Doxa: An Indigenous Perspective
This paper examines the celebration of Dashain, the most celebrated Hindu festival in Nepal, by the Buddhist Tamang people of Kavre district. Many ethnic activists and scholars argue that Dashain and its patronizing by the state is a continual process of creating Hindu cultural hegemony in Nepal. Since the early 1990s, indigenous and other non-Hindu groups have also ‘boycotted’ Dashain as a way of resisting the Hindu state and reclaiming their distinct cultural and religious identities. However, many indigenous and non-Hindu groups such as the Tamangs of Kavre district continue to celebrate Dashain as one of their own cultural events. In this paper, I focus on the ways in which the Tamangs of Kavre areas have indigenized the Dashain festival, and how they debate about the festival. Drawing on the practice theory of Pierre Bourdieu, his concept of ‘doxa’; interviews with different age groups and genders of the study area; and my own observations and reflections from this village, I discuss how the interplays of peoples’ habitus based on the centrality of kinship, the ways in which people objectify their social structure through Dashain, and the dominant local cultural interpretations contribute towards the continual celebration of the festival by the local Buddhist Tamangs.
In terms of the social and cultural significance of the Dashain, there exist multiple meanings and even conflicting understandings about the festival. Some groups want to continue celebrating Dashain as a communal event while others emphasize that they should boycott it. The continual celebration of Dashain by the Buddhist Tamang should not be simply seen as an example of Hinduization and their acceptance of Hindu cultural hegemony. I argue that we need to understand how Dashain has become a doxa through people’s collective practice and what meanings people assign to these practices. According to Bourdieu, doxa is condition of people’s thinking where cultural practice fit the objective structure. The doxic reality of Dashain is now also being challenged, particularly by the young generations. However, their effort of boycotting Dashain and promoting Lhochhar as the alternative to the Dashain has not become effective so far at the local level. The paper also highlights this cultural politics for and against the celebration of Dashain in order to demonstrate cultural equality in multicultural society. One group of activist-scholars argue in favor of cultural identity, recognition, and respect of other’s culture while others hardly accept it as these issues were driving from nationalist movements lead by minority groups and subaltern groups. Nonetheless, social justice is become a key and common issue in contemporary society in order to create a new humanity and social dignity.