Nepal is not only the land of mountains;
it is also the land of festivals. There are more than 50 festivals
celebrated in Nepal every year. While the national festivals have
fixed dates, religious festivals are set by astrologers following
the lunar calendar. The best part about the festivals in Nepal is
that all the events are celebrated with the same enthusiasm and
galore the way it used to be hundreds of years ago when people had
no other means of entertainment.
Year: It is known as “Navavarsha” in
Nepal. Nepal has its official calendar that begins from the first
day of the first month Baisakh. This very first day is observed
as Nepali New Year which usually falls in the second week of April.
People go for picnics, have get-togethers and celebrate the day
socializing in various ways as this day is also a national holiday.
(Tibetan New Year): This is the New Year of the
Tibetans and Sherpas of Nepal which falls in February. The Buddhist
monasteries in Kathmandu like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath are decorated
with eye catching colorful prayer flags pulling the crowd. The people
perform their traditional dances and welcome their New Year with
feasts and family gatherings wearing all the new clothes and finest
jewelries and exchanging gifts.
Puja: Saraswati Puja or Shree Panchami is a day
to celebrate the birthday of Saraswati – the Goddess of Learning.
This is a day when people from school students to scholars worship
their pens and books to please the Goddess and expect her favor
in their studies so they become wise and knowledgeable. People also
throng around the idol of Goddess Saraswati, especially in Swayambhunath
and offer flowers, sweets, fruits, etc. On this day, small children
are taught to read and write and people write on the stones and
slabs with chalks and pencils. This day which falls between January/February
is regarded as a very auspicious day for marriages too as it is
believed that Goddess Saraswati herself blesses the couples. Normally
it is the astrologers who fix the marriage date and time in Nepal.
(Maha Shivaratri): Shivaratri or the night of Lord
Shiva that falls sometime between February/March is one of the major
festivals of Nepal. This day is dedicated to the Lord of the Lords
– Lord Shiva or Mahadev who lived in Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas.
Lord Shiva is the most worshipped God in the Hindu religion. More
than 100,000 of Hindu devotees from India and Southeast Asia throng
weeks ahead of the festival and gather in and around Pashupatinath
temple – one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus in Kathmandu
to pay their homage to Lord Shiva on his birthday. “Pashupatinath”
literally means “the Lord of animals” as Lord Shiva
is considered as the guardian and protector of everything that exists
in the Himalayan Kingdom. On this holy day, worshippers take dip
and bath in the holy river at early dawn and fast for the whole
day and stay around fire to keep them warm as it is still winter
in Nepal. The devotees also freely indulge in using marijuana and
other intoxicating substances as these things are believed to please
Lord Shiva and marijuana use is legal only on this sacred day. More
This festival of water and colors that falls between February/March
is also known as “Phagu” in Nepal. This day is observed
to rejoice the extermination of female demon Holika who together
with her King brother conspired to kill his son Pralhad, an ardent
devotee of Lord Vishnu. This day, playful people especially the
young ones wander through the streets in groups on foot or vehicles
with various colors smeared all over them and the people in houses
make merry throwing colors and water balloons at each other and
also to these people on the streets.
Jatra (Festival of Horses): This festival takes
place between March/April and a grand horse parade takes place at
Tundikhel. Although this festival does not have much of religious
aspects, a large number of people, even from outside Kathmandu flock
around Kathmandu to witness the horse race and other exciting sports
activities performed by the Army in the presence of the King and
the Royal family.
Jayanti: Buddha’s birth anniversary is celebrated
every year during May in Nepal. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath
and Boudhanath to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s
birth place in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps.
Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned
his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went
in search of enlightenment.
Jatra (Cow Festival): This festival of cow is celebrated
every year in August/September. This is one of the most popular
festivals in Nepal as it is full of humor, satire, comedy, mockery
and shades of sadness too at the same time. And on this day satires
and jokes on anybody is legal. As per the tradition, the family
who has lost a relative during the past one year must take part
in a procession by sending young boys in cow like attire and walk
through the streets of Kathmandu lead by a cow. Cow is regarded
as a Goddess and it is also the national animal of Nepal. This festival
also purges many who have lost their loved ones as they get to console
themselves as to they are not the only ones who have been bereaved
and it also teaches to accept death as a part of life.
Janmastami: The birth anniversary of Lord Sri Krishna,
believed to be the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu falls sometime
in August/September. All the devotees assemble in Krishna Mandir,
the ancient Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square and other temples
with the idol of Sri Krishna and offer prayers, flowers, food, sweets
and chant hymns too.
This is a Hindu married woman’s day for her man. This festival
is celebrated in August/September. Women clad in beautiful red saris
with shining potes (glass beads), singing and dancing is the sight
almost everywhere in Nepal during the festival of Teej. On this
day women observe a fast and pray Lord Shiva for the long, healthy
and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried
women also observe this festival with unabated zeal with the hope
that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women
queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers
to Lord Shiva.
Jatra: This festival named after Lord Indra- the
God of Rain and also the King of Heaven is celebrated by both the
Buddhists and Hindus in Nepal in August/September. This festival
lasts for eight days with singing, mask dancing and rejoicing. The
chariot of Kumari – the Living Goddess is taken through the
main streets of Kathmandu with much fanfare. On the first day, the
King of Nepal also pays homage to Goddess Kumari. The crowd of excited
people from performers to spectators engulfs the streets of Kathmandu
during this festival. People get to enjoy various classical dances
like elephant dance, lakhe – a very popular dance of a man
with a mask.
This festival of lights that falls between October/November is the
second biggest festival after Dashain. This festival lasts for five
days and people worship Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth. All
the houses are cleaned and decorated with the belief that Goddess
Laxmi will enter the house that is the cleanest and people lit candles,
oil lamps and other lights and the whole place looks illuminating.
During the five days, crows, dogs and cows are worshipped and honored
with vermilion, garland and delicious food for what they have done
in the lives of humans. Crows are regarded as the messenger that
brought news even during the times when there were no postmen and
no postal services. Dogs are the most obedient animals and they
guard our house as true guardians. Cow is also a symbol of wealth
in Hinduism and she is also the national animal of Nepal. During
Tihar, the Newari community in Nepal also observes Mha puja –
a ritual of worshipping one’s own body and life. On this very
day, the Newari New Year which is also known as Nepal Sambat begins.
The festival ends with Bhai Tika – brothers’ day when
his sisters worship him for his long and healthy life to safeguard
the lives of his sisters. This is also a gambling time in Nepal
as gambling is not illegal during this festival.
Dashain (Bijaya Dashami):
During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the
Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain.
Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese
annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout
the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright
lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out
the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations
are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands
of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching
the goddess for days in blood. Read more about Dashain
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