Red Powder and Rice

Dasai, the biggest Hindu festival of the year, is a time for family gatherings, new clothes, meat, and worship of Durga. The climax of the festival, on the tenth day, is when senior family members give tikas (red powder mixed with rice daubed on the forehead) to their juniors. Christians in Nepal consistently refuse to wear a tika because of its associations with idol worship. And, as one Hindu admitted, ‘Christians don’t wear tikas… if they did, we wouldn’t know if they were Hindu or Christian’.

Dasai can be a difficult time for new Christians. Just how difficult is apparent from the distraught testimony of a local girl of 25, who has been a Christian for seven or eight months. She is the only child of Hindu parents. She felt she needed to be at home to help her mother with all the extra cooking for guests this Dasai. She describes what happened on the tenth day of Dasai in her own words:

‘Before being given a tika you have to wash to be pure, then go to the temple, do worship, offer jamera [a yellow flower grown specially during Dasai festival], and then return home at the auspicious time, which this year was 9.05am. Instead, I kept busy cooking food. Because I am a believer I didn’t want to wear a tika. I had already spoken with Mum about that, but she didn’t reply, she only made a sad face. The one who gives a tika can’t eat until they have done so. It was hard for me to see her go hungry all day. So I received a tika, asking God for forgiveness. I did it deliberately, not in ignorance. I am a believer in the Lord now. I wanted to cry.

‘I hope that in the future I can fully believe in God. But this Dasai I wore a tika. I have thought a lot about this. I can’t do both. I can’t walk both roads. I have to choose one path, but how can I choose God? If I choose God I will keep on getting temptation, not temptation from God but from Satan. Satan tries to pull you back. I particularly need the church to pray, and if they pray from their innermost heart for me, God will hear. He will give me a way to escape from temptation, that is my hope. I want to be close to God. I hope that God will acknowledge me – I have acknowledged him; but at this Dasai festival I fell back. I didn’t want to. What is God’s grace like?’

Thankfully Dasai becomes less difficult for believers once their families are used to them being Christians, and have seen the changes in their lives. We have heard many exciting stories from brothers and sisters who were with their Hindu families at Dasai and yet did not compromise their faith in Jesus.

Will you take up the challenge to pray for this girl? Her situation highlights the cost of being a Christian in Nepal. The emerging Nepali church faces many similar issues in the Hindu enironment. What does it mean to be both a Christian and a Nepali?

Nick and Rosalind Henwood, Interserve England & Wales Partners serving in Nepal.