Major Festival of Nepal
Table of Contents
Dashain and Tihar
Being a multi-cultural country, Nepali do observe many festivals. Among them, the biggest and most popular festival in Nepal is Dashain and Tihar. Dashain is celebrated to commemorate Goddess Durga’s victory over evil Mahishasura as per Hindu mythology. Nepali people celebrate Dashain for 15 days by spending time with their family members, eating delicious foods, and receiving Tika and blessings from the elderly. It generally falls in October.
Tihar is the second greatest festival in Nepal. This festival is celebrated after two weeks of Dashain. It is a festival of lights and flowers. Tihar is celebrated for five days. People worship the goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity during these festivals. It is also the festival on which Nepali people worship dogs for their loyalty, offering them garlands and good food. Similarly, people worship crows and ox on different days. Further, the last day of Tihar- Bhaitika, celebrates the bond of a brother and sister’s relationship.
Buddha Jayanti is also known as Buddha Purnima falls on the full moon day of Baishakh (Baisakh Sukla Purnima). It is celebrated to mark the birthday of the Lord Buddha. Gautam Buddha was born in 623 BC as a prince of the Shakya dynasty in Lumbini, which now falls in the Kapilvastu district of Nepal. Since it is the birthplace of Budhha, Nepal celebrates Buddha Jayanti as one of its grand festivals. The peace lover and Buddhist communities like to make their pilgrimage to Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini of Nepal, on this auspicious day. Further, the Buddhist monasteries, Chaityas, and Gumbas are decorated and crowded with numerous visitors on Buddha Jayanti.
From early in the morning, devotee duo native and foreigners throng around the Buddhist Shrines and stupas with the musical band and offer rice, flowers, butter lamps, and incense. Special pooja/ ritual functions and programs are held to highlight the Buddhist ideology and philosophy on this day.
Gai Jatra is one of the most lively and widely liked festival of Nepal. The traditional Gai Jatra is observed in around different locations and vicinities of the three cities of the valley amid fun, gaiety, humor, satire, and entertainment. The festivities of Gai Jatra, beginning on the first day of the waning moon in the month of Bhadra and does last for a week. The word Gai Jatra translates as the cow carnival. But the festival is celebrated to commemorate the death of loved ones. People sing, dance and dress as cows to parade on the street. It is a festival celebrated to ease the pain of losing a loved one.
The origin of Gai Jatra goes back to the time of The Malla’s reign in Nepal. As per beliefs, when a Malla queen was grieving her son’s loss, to console her, the king ordered the public who had lost their loved ones to come out in procession to show the queen that she was not alone. Since then, Gai Jatra is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal. The Newar community mainly celebrates it. However, the festival has a presence throughout the country.
Janai Purnima or Rakshya Bandhan
Janai Purnima is a major festival in Nepal. Hindu men renew their holy thread called ‘Janai,’ on this auspicious full moon day, thus called Janai Purnima. Further, people visit Shiva temples, and a huge Mela is held at many holy places like Gisaikunda in Rasuwa, which many devotees attend.
Apart from that, families gather together to feast on sprout lentils, commonly known as ‘Kwati’ in Nepali. Further, Janai Purnima also includes Rakshya Bandhan, a ceremony where sisters tie a thread on their brother’s hand and receive gifts. But in-depth, the tradition has a deeper meaning; it is a celebration and prayer to strengthen the love and respect in between and among sisters and brothers.
Teej is a great Hindu festival. It is exclusively celebrated by married Hindu women. This festival of Nepal does fall on Bhadra Sukla Tritika (3rd day of the full moon day of Bhadra). On the occasion of Teej, women wear red sarees, tika, bangles, and sing and dance for days. Traditionally, it has huge significance for married women, who visit their maternal homes and feast on traditional meals called Dar.
Following Dar, women fast for a whole day without food and drinks while singing and dancing in groups. While fasting, married women pray to Lord Shiva for their husband’s longevity and prosperity, whereas unmarried women pray to attain a good husband and marital bliss. Many women go to Pashupatinath on Teej to offer their prayers; it is a sight to behold with so many women dancing merrily. The fascinating thing is to see women of all age groups come together, young and old, dance for hours in the heat, rain without a drop of water or food for an entire day.
Shree Krishna Janmasthami
Shree Krishna Janmashtami marks the celebration of the birth of Lord Sri Krishna. As per Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna is regarded as the 8th avatar or ‘incarnation’ of Lord Vishnu, who took birth to end the monstrosity of his evil uncle ‘Kansh.’ It falls either in August or September. Lord Krishna is a mischievous god who used to be involved in many mischievousnesses as a child, including breaking pots and stealing butter from villagers. So, on the occasion of Janmashtami, ceremonies are held where a pot with butter is hung at a height, and various teams take turns to break the pot for the delicious treat. Women take fast throughout the day, go to the nearest Krishna Temple and worship for the health and prosperity of family members, sing and dance on this day. There will be a huge crowd of people in the major Krishna temples of Nepal including the Krishna temple of Patan, Lalitpur. This festival of Nepal is celebrated throughout the country.
Fagun Purnima or Holi
Fagun Purnima, also termed Holi, is derived from the name of mythical demoness Holika. Like many other festival in Nepal, Holi also has a connection to Hindu mythology. It embarks the victory of good over bad. As per legends, a young boy named Prahalad was a devotee of Lord Bishnu, whom his father, demon king Mahisasur considered a mortal enemy. Filled with rage, the demon king ordered his sister Holika, who was blessed with fire immunity, to kill his son. After which, Holika, who sat on fire holding Prahalad, but she was the one who perished in the flames while the boy lived.
And to celebrate that miracle, people play Holi- a celebration of fun, colors, and happiness. Holi falls in late February or early March. In recent years, Holi has gained popularity even among tourists. The festival is celebrated with immense joy and jubilation. People even prepare succulent dishes and sweets and invite their kith and kin to enjoy them together. They put on new dresses and do smear their faces with different colors. They even spray multi-colored water onto one another. They do exchange best wishes for each other. It is an occasion of feasting and merry-making.
Maghe Sankranti or Maghi
Maghe Sankranti is celebrated on the first day of the Magh months of the Nepali calendar. It is the indication of the holy month, usually in the mid of January. The festival hopes to bring the end of the cold season and expects warmer weather and better days of health and fortune. On this day, families get together to eat delicious meals together. People eat sesame seed treats, ghee, molasses, sweet potatoes, and yams as per traditions.
Further, the same day is observed as Maghi- the New Year by the Tharu community in Terai. They celebrate it with family get-togethers, eating delicious foods, attending Melas, and dressing up in traditional wear. In some parts of the country, there is a tradition of bullfighting on this day which people enjoy wholeheartedly. This festival also helps to foster friendship and brotherhood.
Indra Jatra is one of the most exciting and revered festivals of the Newar community of the Kathmandu Valley. It is an eight-day-long Jatra festival that falls in September. This festival also marks the beginning of a month-long festival season of autumn. It is celebrated to commemorate the time when Indra came down to earth; as per Hindu mythology, Indra is the King of Heaven.
The Jatra begins with the erection of a wooden pole made of pine at Basantapur Square in front of the old Hanuman Dhoka Palace. Further, the chariot of Living Goddess Kumari is taken out for procession on the street of Kathmandu. Thousands of spectators gather to see the joyful procession led by masked dancers known as Lakhey.
Mahashivaratri, or the night of Shiva, is one of the major festival of Nepal. Lord Shiva is a supreme god as per Hindu mythology. As per beliefs on the day of Shivaratri, the stars are at an optimum position that raises spiritual energy.
On this day, thousands of Hindu devotees visit the holiest shrine of Hindus, the Pashupatinath temple, which is also considered the protector of Kathmandu valley and Nepal. For this festival, the Pashupatinath temple is covered with flowers. Lots of Sadhus come from India to pray at
Pashupatinath and perform Lord Shiva’s spiritual Tandav dance on this day. Since it’s a night festival, devotees celebrate the whole night, chanting and praying for light over darkness. At home, people gather together, light bonfires, and prepare holy meals on Shivratri.