Nepal as of today is secular state and has constitutional right to practice one's religious freedom. That being said, Hinduism is followed by 81.3% of the population and has more then 50 festivals that are celebrated through out the year. In Hindu tradition 330 million gods and goddesses are worshipped, which is confusing amount even to a practicing Hindu. Nepal has a rich culture and heritage, and it is filled with beautiful architectural marbles seen in the form of temples, statues, palaces and houses. There are numerous festivals celebrated throughout the year.
One of the festival that is celebrated with utmost importance is Kushe Aunshi also known as Pitri Tarpani Aunshi, Gokarna Aunshi or Nepali Father's Day (Buwa ko mukh herne din). This festival usually falls on first new moon of Bhadra Krishna Paksha which is in between late August or early September.
What is Gokarna Aunshi/ Pitri Tarpani Aunshi?
The word Gokarna has a meaning in itself "Go-Cow and Karna- Ear". As mentioned in Bhagwat purana (a revered text in Vaishnavism, a Hindu tradition that reveres Vishnu) Lord Shiva, one of the 3 major GOD worshipped by Hindu's, incarnated in this avatar as a child to Brahmana Atmaveda and his wife Dhundhuli. When childless Atmaveda asked for a boon to have a child with a sannyasi, he was given a fruit as a blessing stating that when eaten by his wife they could have a child. But Dhundhuli had different plans and gave the fruit to a cow, and asked her sister if she could adopt her baby instead. Later the cow gave birth to a human child with a cow ear and they named him Gokarna. They had also adopted a baby from her sister and named him Dhundukari.
Dhundukari was not a good human so he died very early, so when Gokarna noticed Dundukari's soul still lingering in material world, he performed shraddha for him so his soul could be free from this material world. So paying homage to this lore from Purana, which is highly regarded in Hindu culture, on Gokarna Aunshi people who lost their parents perform a special ritual for dead called Shradda. On this day people usually visit Lord Shiva shrines like Gokarneshwor temple or Pashupati temple. Lot of people also perform shradda at Bagmati river or any rivers near them, since flow of water in river is believed to purify the soul.
Reason why it's called Kushe Aunshi and importance of Kusha in Nepalese Hindu culture
Kush/Kusha also known as Darbha Grass is scientifically known as Desmostachya Bipinnata. Kusha has important place amongst practicing Hindus as well as all spiritual seekers. According to Hindu mythology Kusha originated from the hair of Varaha, the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu as mentioned in one of the ancient scriptures called Garuda Purana. Since it was believed to be originated from a mythical God, in Hindu tradition, Kusha is considered sacred and used to purify all the offerings being offered to Gods. In one of the puranas Kusha is regarded as an essential item to be used while performing death rituals or shraddha, since it purifies the process and provides a clear path for a departed soul. Not just in Hindu tradition but in Buddhism and Jainism Kusha is regarded as pure plant. Significance of Kusha has been mentioned in Vedas (ancient Hindu holy scripture).
- Kusha is used in every sacred ceremony to purify the space, offerings and create the seat for god's and goddesses as mentioned in Rig Veda.
- In Bhagavad Geeta Lord Krishna mentions Kusha as an ideal material to make a seat for meditation.
- For the rituals performed for death known as shraddha, single leafed Kusha is used to make a ring for a performer so what ever they offer to departed soul becomes pure.
- Hindu priests performing rituals use Kusha to sprinkle water in house to purify the space, and it is also used in for sides of fire while doing havan to block the radiation.
- For all the religious purpose Kusha is grown naturally and cultivated only on Krishna Paksha Padyami which is next day after full moon and, in Nepal, Brahmin priests distribute Kusha to household on first new moon of Bhadra Krishna Paksha exchange of daan and dakchina.
What is Nepalese Father's day and why is it celebrated on this day?