Bhutanese Community hosts ‘Dashain Tika’ at David Douglas High

With blessings, food and dance – see the colorful traditions these newcomers are bringing to our area at this outer East Portland celebratory event …

The 2010 Bhutanese Dashain Tika Festival starts with prayers said and blessings given by the elders of their community.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Colorful garb, happy folks, and good food marked the 2010 Bhutanese Dashain Tika Festival – this year hosted at David Douglas High School.

“Dashain Tika is a festival day of blessings for our families, friends, and neighbors,” event spokesperson Som Subedi, told us.

“I came from Nepal as a refugee in 2008,” Subedi said. “In every year, we hold this festival; this is the blessing that we get from the older generation. We need this special encouragement from our older generation every year – especially now, as we live here in this new land.”

Dressed in her native finery from Nepal, spokeswoman Som Subedi tells why the red mark is placed on foreheads of participants in the Dashain Tika Festival.

After participants have the “Tika” – a red mark – placed on their foreheads, explained Subedi, “We feel stronger; like we can go all the way to the end of the next year. We need this encouragement, so we don’t forget our goals in the future.”

Currently, the Bhutanese community in the greater Portland area numbers about 400, Subedi pointed out. “Ours is one of the newest communities to come here to Portland; we’re doing our best to organize.”

The festival was open the public, we learned, because members of the Bhutanese community wanted to share their culture. “Everyone who came to the United States brought some other culture from their home country when they became an American,” observed Subedi. “We want to show our new friends here the good things about our culture as well.”

The kingdom of Bhutan, we learned, treats its minority communities ruthlessly, including Tibetan Buddhist ethnic Nepalis, predominantly Hindus.

“Around 100,000 were expelled from Bhutan in the 1990s after a decade of shrinking civil and human rights under the monarchy,” said the program’s master of ceremonies, Ronault L. S. Caralani. “An entire generation has waited in isolated chilly mountainside refugee camps in Nepal, administered by the UN. Some of our people have settled here.”

Bhutanese Brahman and elders bless the community, with their hands together in the worshipful pose called “Namaste”.

In the courtyard outside the DDHS north cafeteria, elderly men – Hindu holy men called Brahman – were conducting their ritual of worship.

“We have to do this, to make ourselves pure,” Subedi explained. “Our elders do this because they want to eradicate our ills and bring happiness to our community. When they hold their hands together, it’s always at chest level, and they call it ‘Namaste’. When they hold a leaf or a flower in their hand, it’s a special sign of recognition – high respect – given only to God.”

Volunteer, Chhabi Koirala helps organize the food about to be served.

After the blessings, everyone filtered back into the cafeteria, now filled with the aroma of exotic foods.

“These are all of the foods we eat during our festival,” said volunteer Chhabi Koirala, as he helped set out heaping trays of savory and colorful victuals.

Celebrants to line up, and fill their plates with delightful foods.

Selling raffle tickets: Dishnu Dhungel, Deepa Sharma, and Sabnam Koirala.

“Our newcomer families are often conflicted over whether to hold tight to ancient beliefs and anchoring traditions, or acculturating to new and uncertain ones,” shared Subedi. “Together, we let go of our families’ sorrows over expulsion from our beloved homeland, and our struggles integrating into our beautiful new hometown – Portland.”

As part of the celebration, these young ladies perform Bhutanese cultural dances. Charles C. King photo CLICK HERE to learn more about his world travels.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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