Festivals in Nepal

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Overview

Nepal is a multi religious and multi cultural country with high tolerance and harmony amongst each other. As a multi religious and multi cultural country, Nepal celebrates multiple festivals throughout the year. Festivals celebrated by different communities of different religious and indigenous groups are great occasion for social gatherings and socialisation. Nepal have over 70 different ethinic  groups and over 65 local dialects. It is said in Nepal that there are more festivals than the days in a year.

Some of important festivals in Nepal that you might find interesting to visit in 2016 are as follows.

You can travel to Nepal or organize Nepal tour or trek combined with these festivals to add color on your travel experiences.

Basanta Panchami / Shree Panchami – 13 Feb. 2016

Basanta, or spring, ushers in the loveliest time of the year. Crowds gather at Kathmandu’s Durbar Square while heads of state and other dignitaries welcome the season as a band plays the traditional song of spring. A different celebration occurs at Swayambhu and at the Nil Sarashwati shrine near Lazimpat. Saraswati, the goddess of learning, arts, and crafts is worshiped at her temples. Artists, musicians, teachers, and students bring flowers, unbroken rice, and other gifts to please her.

Maha Shivaratri – 07 Mar. 2016

Lord Shiva is one of Nepal’s most popular gods. During Maha Shivaratri, his “Great Night”, followers throughout the Indian sub-continent crowd the Pashupati temple to worship him. On this occasion “there is no space even for a sesame seed”. Colorful sadhus, the wandering sages who emulate Shiva, rub ashes over their bodies, give lectures to disciples, meditate, or practice yoga. Devotees pray to Shiva’s image inside the temple at midnight and may queue for up to six hours to look at the image. Bonfires are lit, neighbours and friends share food, and devotees enjoy two days and a night of music, song, and dance throughout the Pashupati complex and in the streets.

Fagu Purnima/Holi (The Festival of Colors) – 22 Mar. 2016

Fagu Purnima or Holi is one of the most colorful and playful festivals of Nepal. The chir pole, decorated with colorful flags and erected on the first day of Fagu at Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, is a formal announcement to all: hide your good clothes, for throughout the week you may be splashed with colored powder and water balloons. The last day is the wildest youths covered with red vermilion powder roam the streets as inviting targets.

Bisket Jatra:  09 – 17 April 2016

During this important festival, the old kingdom of Bhaktapur and its neighbouring areas replay a Brama passed on over the centuries. Images of wrathful and somewhat demonic deities are placed on tottering chariots. They are offered blood sacrifices, flowers, and coins. Men brimming with youthful vigor and rice beer drag the chariots across brick-paved streets of the town, and wherever these raths stop, lamps are lit and devotees overflow into the surrounding alleys. Other gods and goddesses, too, are put on palanquins and carried around so that they may see the sights. At Bode village, there is a tongue-boring ceremony in which the dedicated may reserve a place in heaven.

Nepali New Year’s Eve – 12 Apr. 2016

The Nepalese follow their own calendar system known as the Bikram Era or Bikram Sambat. Nawabarsha is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the new year and is observed as an official holiday. In Bhaktapur, fifteen kilometers from Kathmandu, the New Year celebrations take on added importance at Bisket Jatra. Images of the god Bhairav and his female counterpart Bhadrakali are enshrined in two large chariots and pulled through crowds of cheering on lookers. When the chariot reaches a sloping, open square, there is a tug-of-war between the inhabitants of the upper and lower parts of the town. Winners are considered to be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. The festival concludes with several days of dancing and worship. Thimi, another ancient town of the Valley, also celebrates the New Year with special festivities.

Buddha Jayanti – 21 May 2016

Ever-benevolent Buddha was born in Nepal, and the religion he preached is the second most popular in the kingdom. On Full Moon Day, the Lord’s birth, enlightenment, and salvation are applauded throughout the valley with celebrations. Swayambhu and Boudhanath Stupas are prepared for the oncoming festivities several days in advance. Monasteries are cleaned, statues are polished, bright prayer flags waft in the breeze, and monks prepare to dance. On the Jayanti day, people reach the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the many Buddha images there.

Janai Purnima – 18 Aug. 2016

On Janai Purnima, a full moon day, high-caste Hindus chant the powerful Gayatri mantra and change their Sacred Thread (janai), while a raksya bandhan (a red or yellow protection cord) is tied around the wrists of other Hindus and Buddhists. Pilgrims journey to the mountains north of Kathmandu. Here they emulate Lord Shiva by bathing in the sacred lake of Gosaikund. Those unable to make the trek celebrate at Shiva’s Kumbheswar Mahadev temple.

Gai Jatra – 19 Aug. 2016

The gai, or cow, is holy to Hindus. She represents Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and guides the souls of the departed to the gates of the Netherworld. But Gai Jatra is not a somber occasion. Satire, jokes, fancy costumes, and colorful processions are the order of the day as people recall how an eighteenth-century king rallied his people to cheer his queen upon the death of their son. Those who have experienced the death of close ones during the past year share their sorrow and take comfort in the fact that the gai has safely transported the departed souls on their afterlife journey. Young men wear women’s saris, children dress up as cows, and whimsical characters of all sorts fill the streets. Special issues of local magazines poke fun at everyone and everything – even the most important people aren’t spared.

Krishnashtami – 25 Aug. 2016

Krishnashtami, or the birthday of Lord Krishna, is celebrated in commemoration of the hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. On this day, worshippers carry ornate, decorated statues and pictures of Lord Krishna through the streets, often with bands of musicians following or preceding the procession. In Patan, thousands of devotees flock to the Krishna temple to worship and receive blessings.

Teej – 04 Sep. 2016

Pashupati, the temple of Shiva, is drenched in crimson during Teej as women in their fine red wedding saris crowd the temple grounds. This unique women’s festival is marked by fasting, folk songs, and dancing as the women recall Parbati’s devotion to her husband Shiva. Married women visit their fathers’ homes. All daughters and sisters receive gifts from their male kin, and an elaborate feast is prepared for them. It’s a loud and cheerful celebration until late at night, when strict fasting begins. Unmarried women who fast on this day will have good luck in finding suitable husbands. Married women, who take fasting, will find their husbands faithful and will see the bond of love grow. The blessings of Shiva and Parbati ensure that family life will be joyous for all.

Dashain – 01 – 15 Oct. 2016 (Main Day – 11 Oct)

Dashain is the longest and most favorite festival of Nepal. Everyone stays home with their families, offices close, and Radio Nepal plays Dashain music. The skies of Kathmandu are filled with kites and the marketplaces are filled with farmers bringing their buffaloes, goats, and chickens to sell. The animals are to be sacrificed on the night of Kal Ratri to the goddess Durga to celebrate her victory over evil. On the day of Dashami, everyone puts on new clothes and goes to honor their family elders, where they receive large red tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. In the following days of Dashain, families and friends unite, feasts are consumed, blessings are imparted, and gifts are exchanged. Nepal’s most beloved festival ends with the full moon.

Tihar  – 28 Oct – 01 Nov 2016 (Main Day – 01 Nov)

Tihar, known as the Festival of Lights, is a time of candlelight, tinsel decorations, and festively colored sweets. On different days, there are offerings and small celebrations for crows, dogs, cows, and oxen. On the night of Lakshmi Puja, garlands are hung and lamps are lighted to invite Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into the home. Mha Puja, the New Year’s Day according to the Nepal Era, is the day of the self, when people give themselves blessings to remain healthy and happy for the rest of the year. Bhai Tika, the last day of Tihar, is the day when sisters make offerings to their brothers. The rituals of breaking a walnut, putting on garlands of makhamali flowers, and encircling brothers in rings of mustard oil protects them from Yama, lord of the Netherworld.



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