It is said about Nepal that every other
structure is a holy shrine and every day a festival.
Well, if the number of annual festivals, both religious
and national, is any indication, the saying couldn’t
be truer. Festivals are an essential part of Nepalese
life that garners tremendous local participation.
Festivals also offer visitors a valuable opportunity
not only for having fun but gaining insight into various
aspects of Nepalese culture.
The religious festivals have fixed dates.
Wherever or whenever you arrive in Nepal. You can
be pretty sure of being at the right time for one
or more special events. Some of the major and interesting
festivals are presented below.
Navavarsha (Nepali New Year)
The Nepalese New year’s day usually falls in
the second week of April. i.e The first Day of Baisakh.
The day is observed as a national holiday. The people
celebrate it with a great pomp and show. On this occasion,
Besket Jatra is held in the city of Bhktapur.
Baisakh Poornima (May 13)
As Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the light
of Asia, the triple anniversary of the Buddha’s
Birth, enlightenment and death is observe with many
colorful ceremonies on this day. People celebrate
the occasion with great veneration paying homage to
Buddha at places like Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and
Rath Jatra (May – June)
This festival is the biggest socio – cultural
event of Patan. The wheeled chariot of deity known
as Bungdyo or Red Machhhendrant is made at pulchowk
and dragged through the city of patan is several stages
till in reaches the appointed destination. The grand
finale of the festival is called the Bhoto Dekhanune
or the showing of a vest” A similar kind of
chariot festival to Machchendranatha is also held
in Kathmandu city in the month of March April.
Gaijatra ( August - 10 )
In this festival teen-aged boys dressed up as cows,
parade the streets of the town. This costume springs
from the belief that cows help the members of the
family who died within that year to travel to heaven
smoothly. Some are also dressed up as an ascetic or
a fool for achieving the same objective for their
dead family members. Groups of mimics improvise short
satirical enactment on the current social scenes of
the town for the entertainment of the public. The
week beginning from Janai Purnima actually unfolds
a season of many good religious and cultural activities.
All the Buddhist monasteries open their gates to the
visitors to view their bronze sculptures and collection
of painting for a week. At Patan, one observes the
festival of Mataya at this time.
The festivity of Gai Jatra itself lasts
for a week enlivened by the performance of dance and
drama in the different localities of the town. The
spirit of the old festival is being increasingly adapted
by cultural centers, newspaper and magazines to fling
humor and satire on the Nepalese Social and Political
Krishnastamai (August - 15)
It marks the birthday of Lord Krishna. On this day,
impressive ceremonies are conducted at the Krishna
Temple in Patan and at Changu Narayan.
Indrajatra (August – September)
Like Gai Jatra, this also heralds a week of religious
and cultural festivity in Kathmandu. There are several
face of this festival. On the nights when this festival
begins members of the family in which death has taken
place within one year, go around the town limits of
Kathmandu burning incense and putting lamps along
the route. The same morning a tall wooden pole representing
the statue of Indra and large wooden masks of Bhairab
are put on display in the bazaar. Several groups of
religious dance like the Devinach, Bhairava and Bhakku
as well as Mahankalinach come into life during this
week. The week also commences with pulling of chariot
of Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari in Kathmandu. On this
historical day, King Prithvi Narayan Shah made a victorious
march with his troops into the town and ascended the
throne of Kantipur the old name of Kathmandu displacing
the Malla King Jaya Prakash Malla.
Dashain or Durga Puja (September
- 30 To October - 2)
It is truly the national festival of Nepal. Every
Nepali is stirred by the prospects of joy that this
festival is supposed to bring with it. The change
of mood is also induced psychologically by the turn
of autumn season after a long spell of monsoon, introducing
clear and brilliant days, an azure blue sky and a
green carpet of fields, the climate is also just ideal
at this time, it is neither too cold nor too warm.
The Nepalese cherish their Dashain as time for eating
well and dressing well. Each house sets up shrine
to worship the Goddess at this time. Barley seeds
are planted on the first day in every household and
nurtured for nine days. During this period Goddess
Durga Bhawani is worshipped and offered a lot of blood
sacrifices. Buffaloes, goats, chickens and ducks are
killed by the thousands at the temples at military
posts and in every household. One of the main center
that witnesses the animal sacrifice in a Large scale
at this time is the Hanuman Dhoka palace on the ninth.
On the concluding day of the festival called the Tika,
the elders of the family give Tika to their junior
members and to other relatives who may also come to
seek their blessings. The fresh shoots of the barley's
are also given. Family feasting and feeding of guests
is a common practice at this time.
Tihar (Deepawali) (October -21-24)
It lasts for five days and is marked
by worship to different animals such as crow, the
dog and the cow, five various days. The most important
day is Laxmi puja. The most endearing sight of this
festival is presented by the illumination of the entire
town with rows of tiny flickering lamps on Laxmi puja.
In the evening of this day, the Goddess of Wealth,
Laxmi is worshipped at every household and it is on
her welcome that myriad of lamps are burnt. On the
fifth day sister show their affection towards their
brothers with puja and feed them with delectable food.
They pray for their brother's long life to Yama, the
Hindu God of death.
Vibhaha panchami (November -
(November- December) this is a famous festival of
Janakpur in the eastern Terai. The occasion commemorates
the marriage of Sita to Ram , one of the most respected
Hindu divinities. It attract thousands of pilgrims
from India to Janaki Temple in Janakpur
Lhosar (January - 30)
This festival is most impressively observed in the
month of January, February by the Sherpas. They organize
folk songs and dances on this occasion. These dances
can be seen in Khumbu, Helambhu and other northern
regions on Nepal and also at Baudhanath in Kathmanduu.
Maha Shivaratri (Febryary -
This is the most famous and celebrated festival of
Nepal which attracts large crowds from far flung places
both in India & Nepal. The festival is consecrated
in honor of Shiva. It is observed by bathing and holding
of a religious fast. All Shiva shrines become the
places of visit for “Darshan”, but the
greatest attraction of all is held by the temple of
Pashupatinath in Kathmandu. One gets to see thousands
of Hindus devotees coming to visit the temple of Pashupati.
Among them are a large number of Sadhus and Naked
ascetics. Many people like to keep awake for the whole
nights keeping vigilance over an oil lamp burnt to
please Shiva. Children are seen keeping awake similarly
over a bonfire in many localities. In the afternoon
an official function is held to celebrate this festival
at Tundikhel. The Royal Nepal Army organizes a show
in which series of gun fire are sounded. The ceremony
is witnesses by His Majesty the King.
Teej (August 26)
Teej is a festival of womanhood. This is a special
festival for married women who are supposed to fast
all day and bathe in the holy waters of the rivers.
Dancing, folk songs and the red color sari that are
worn by them on there wedding day dominate the day
of Teej. Red is a symbol of joy and happiness in Nepal
and the color used for marriage ceremonies. Married
women are supposed to wear a lot of red. The days
recall the heavenly occasion when Parvati, daughter
of the Himalaya, won the hand of Lord Shiva after
severe meditation and fasting. On the fist day of
this festival mothers send sweet, meat, saris to their
daughters' houses. On this day group of women gather
together to feast. At midnights, the women begin a
fast in emulation of Parvati. The second day is for
worship. The married ones ask for happy and productive
marriage and a long life for their husband. Those
yet to tie nuptial knots ask for a good husband. It
is believed that their married life will be long and
happy and they will not lose their husbands if they
celebrate this festival. The entrance to Pashupatinath
Temple is a good place to watch as crowds of women
come down to the river, dressed in brightly colored
saris with red marks on their foreheads.
Rishi Panchami falls on the third day
of Teej. On this day, the seven rishis, or sages,
of the Hindu pantheon are worshipped by women to cleanse
all sins of the previous year. Sages are the symbol
of the purity of religion and holy practices in this
earth. On this day women clad in red dress descend
to the holy Temple of Lord Pashupatinath to pray to
Lord Shiva. Women clean their teeth and bathe at the
holy rivers especially at the Bagmati River near the
Temple of Pashupatinath.