Festivals in Nepal
It is said that there are more festivals in Nepal than there are days in the year. Most Nepali festivals are celebrated in homes and there is often little to see or photograph. Festivals complicate treks, however, because government offices remain close and porters leave to their home to enjoy the fetes.
Festivals are scheduled in accordance with the Nepali calendar and the phase of the moon, so they can very over a period of almost a month with respect to the Gregorian (western) calendar. Nepali months overlap Western months. The annual festival cycle, according to the Nepali year, is as follow:
Nepali New Year and Bisket Jatra:-
The Nepali New Year always fall in mid-April. The people of Bhaktapur celebrate the Bisket Jatra (Death of Snake Demons Festival) on this day. Two chariots are drawn pell-mell through the narrow alleyways of the town and a mighty tug-of-war ensues. The winners draw the chariots to their locale. A huge lingam pole is erected in the middle of the town by drunken revelers.
The main festival celebrating the full moon (in May)Buddha’s birth is held all over Nepal especially in Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha. Similar festivals are held at the same time at Swayambhunath and Boudhanath. Processions carry the Buddha’s image and, all through the night, glowing butter lamps amd blazing electric lights celebrate the Buddha’s birth.
Mother’s day also called as ‘Mata Tirtha Aunshi’ is the day when children offer gifts,money and sweets to their mother and literally look at their mother’s face. Those whose mother is deadmake a ritual pilgrimage to Mata Tirtha near Thankot.
Rato Machhendranath Jatra:-
The red (Rato in Nepali) Machhendra festival, also known as ‘Bhoto Jatra’ or the festival of the Vest, is held annually in Patan just before monsoon on a date decided by astrologers. Both Hindus and Buddhists celebrate the festival. The idol of Machhendra is brought from Bungmati village to Pulchowk and paaded on a huge, tottering chariot through the alleys of Patan to Jawalakhel. On an auspicious day, the King and Queen of Nepal, along with top government officials and thousands of devotees, descend upon Jawalakhel to catch a glimpse of the jewel-encrusted ‘Bhoto’(vest) that, according to fables, Machhendra has given to one farmer. The farmer lost the ‘Bhoto’, but one day when he saw the same ‘Bhoto’ with other person he complained the King. Since the dispute could not be solved as the real owner of the ‘Bhoto’ was not recognized king ordered to show the same ‘Bhoto’ every year on the day of Machhendra Nath Jatra.
Also called as Ghate Mangal ,on the first night of the Witch, street urchins set up barricades all over the city and solicit donations from motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians. A monk funeral procession is held later in the day, followed by a feast. Effigies of the devil, made of bamboo poles andleaves, are erected on every crossroads of the city.
On the Day of Snake God that falls on August, Brahman priests are hired by all households to cleanse their houses by pasting a picture of the ‘Naga’ (snake) over their doorways. Pujas (prayers) are performed and offerings of milk and honey are left for the snake gods. The Nagas are pacified through prayers and their protection and blessings are sought.
The Festival of the Sacred Thread is also known as Raksha Bandhan and is celebrated on the full-moon day of August. Higher-caste Hindu men change the Sacred Thread they wear around their chests. In the hills of Nepal, devotees descend upon Shiva temples with a ‘Jhankri’ (medicine man) leading the throngs from each village.
During the festival of the Sacred Cows, children and adults dressed as cow pass through the city streets to honour the souls of their relatives who have recently died. It is also the day on which organized group of people and newspapers are legally allowed to defame and slander any aspects of the society and all peopl
Lord Krishna’s birthday is celebrated with a huge festival at the stone temple of Krishna in Patan Durbar Square. Hymns and religious songs are sung all night by devotees. The King and Queen of Nepal pay their respects to Krishna at the Krishna Mandir.
Gokarna Aunshi (Father’s Day):-
Father’s Day is similar to Mother’s Day. People offer sweets, money and gifts to their fathers and look at their father’s face. Those without fathers go to the Bagmati River at Gokarna to batheand have their father’s soulblessed.
On the day of fasting for wives, all Nepali wives fast from sunup to midnight to ensure that their husbands have good fortune and a long life. Heavily bejeweled women wearing red saris descend upon Pashupatinath to dance and sing the day away. Colorfully attired hill women trek down to Kathmandu for this festival.
The festival of the King of Gods is an eight-day festival at Kathmandu Durbar Square. The purpose of the festival is to ask Indra for post-monsoon showers for the harvest of the rice crop. This is the day the Living Goddess, or Kumari, of Kathmandu presides over a colorful ceremony attended by the king and queen, government officials and foreign diplomats.
The 10-days festival of Dashain (Durga Puja), celebrating Durga’s triumph over evil, is Nepal’s biggest festival. All creeds and castes participate. People visit their families all over the country to rejoice over the goddess Durga’s Triumph. Banks and government offices are closed and most of the country comes to a standtill for the duration of this festival. It is difficult to start trek during Dasain because all the buses and planes are jammed and porter are totally unavailable.
Tihar (or Dipawali) :-
The Festival of Light is the second-most important festival in Nepal. During Tihar, people pay homage to Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Houses are given new coats of paint, hundreds of oil lamps and candles are lit, firecrackers are recklessly tossed into the streets and most houses are packed with men gambling the night away. The goddess blesses gamblers who have made her happy.
The great festival that is celebrated among the people of Terai regions is fall just after ‘Tihar’. During this festival Terai people fasted throughout the day being clean by Heart. Speech and deeds. The other day worshipping the rising sun with various things like ‘Tikas, Insences and Flowers, the festival ends.
In this day people worship Goddess Saraswoti as the Goddess of knowledge and education. People go to the Temples and offer Puja to the Goddess for the better knowledge. Children are taught to learn on this day. It is said that the child would achieve a higher rank if starts learning on the day.
A two-week festival of revelry commemorates the Tibetan New Year in February. Although it’s strictly a Buddhist affair, Hindus (such as Tamangs) who believe in both religions also participate.
On the sacred night dedicated to Shiva, thousands of pilgrims descend upon Pashupatinath, the holiest Hindu temple in the world – the abode of Shiva. Bonfires burn throughout the night to seek Shiva’s blessings. All wood that is not nailed down is stolen by urchins who then spend all night basking in the glow of Shiva’s glorious bonfires.
Fagu Poornima (Holi) :-
Nepal’s water-throwing festival is a merry affair during which people douse cach red power on their faces. The youngsters nowadays use acrylic paint and sewer water to enjoy themselves. Hashis cakes and bhang (a cannabis flavoured drink) are legally sold on this day.
The Nepal army takes over the Tundikhel parade ground in Kathmandu on horse-racing day to display its skills in warfare, acrobatics, motorcycle stunts and horse racing Legend has it the horses are raced to trample devils who may rise from the ground to create havoc.
Chaite Dashain :-
Also known as small Dashin, Chaite Dashain falls on the hot day of April. As Dashain this is celebrated for Lord Ram’s triumph over evil Ravana. Prople offer worship in the Durga Temples and the ‘Shakti Piiths’ and also sacrifice goats, hens, ducks etc. in such Temples.
Just next day of Chaite Dashain comes Ram Nawami, a birth day of Lord Ram and his triumph over the evil demons. People remain fasted on this day to offer Puja to the God.
Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal have religious significance. The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati’s victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Laxmi.