It is said about Nepal that every that other structure is a holy shrine and every other day a festival. Well, if the number of annual festivals, both religious and national, is any indication, the saying couldn't be moretrue. Festivals are an essential part of Nepalese life that garner 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 follow the lunar calendar, while national 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:
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 celebrated it with a great pomp and show. On this occasion, Bisket Jatra is held in the city of Bhaktapur.
As Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the Light of Asia, the triple anniversary of the Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death is observed with many colorful ceremonies on this day. People celebrate the occasion with great veneration paying homage to Buddha at places like Swayambhunath, Bouddhanath and Lumbini.
This festival is the biggest socio-cultural event of Patan. The wheeled chariot of a deity known as Bungdyo or Red Machchhendranath is made at Pulchowk and dragged through the city of Patan is several stages till it reaches the appointed destination (Lagankhel). The grand finale of the festival is called the 'Bhote Dekhaune' or the "showing of a vest". A similar kind of chariot festival to Machchhendranath (white) is also held in Kathmandu city in the month of March-April.
It is celebrated in all the Sherpas settlements in the month of July. The Sherpas of Kathmandu and Helambu regions participate in dancing on this day.
It is a carnival that lasts eight days. Dancing, singing, comedy and anything that causes mirth and laughter are its highlights.
It marks the birthday of Lord Krishna. On this day, impressive ceremonies are conducted at the Krishna Temple in Patan and at Changu Narayan. At midnight between the first and second days the 'birth of Lord Krishna’ is celebrated with pomp and rejoice. Delicacies are prepared from milk and curds that Krishna loved.
The festival of Indra, the God of rain, is observed with great enthusiasm in Kathmandu Valley. The festival lasts for eight days. The chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, is taken out in procession through the main streets of Kathmandu. The festival is specially noted for the echoes of drums and dancing feet of the masked dancers almost every evening.
The Dashain festival is the most important festival of the Nepalese. The entire country is in enthusiastic holiday mood at the time of this festival. The Nepalese cherish their Dashain as a time for eating well and dressing well. Each house sets up shrines 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. Final day of the festival called the 'Tika', the elders of the family give 'Tika' to their junior members and to other relatives who come to seek for blessings.
Known as the festival of Lights, Tihar is celebrated for five days. Houses are illuminated at night and special sweets of different varieties are prepared. Hindu people worship goddess Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. On the final day of Tihar every sister worships her brothers and prays to Yama, the god of death, for their brothers' progress, prosperity and longevity. Sisters put multi-coloured Tika on the brother’s forehead and garland them with flowers. The brothers, in turn, give Tike to their sisters after which gifts are also exchanged. Like Dashain, Tihar ends with a grand feast with all family members together.
Teej is Hindu festival celebrated by women. Dancing, folk song and the red color or women's wedding saris dominate the days of Teej. Women observe a fast and flock to Shiva temples where married ones pray for a happy conjugal life and unmarried ones for a right husband.
This is a famous festival of Janakpur in the eastern Terai region of Nepal. The occasion commemorates the marriage of Sita with Ram, one of the most venerated Hindu divinities. It attracts thousands of pilgrims from India to Janaki Temple in Janakpur. On the first day of the festival, a large procession sets out from the Ram temple, carrying an image of Ram and proceeding to the famous Janaki temple. The next day, in an equally colorful ceremony, a figure of Sita is carried to Ram’s side thus re-enacting the ancient wedding of the diving couple.
This festival is most impressively observed in the month, of February by the Sherpas. They organize folk songs and dances on this occasion. These dances can be seen in Khumbu, Helambu and other northern regions of Nepal and also at Bouddhanath in Kathmandu.
This festival is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva. A great religious fair takes place in the Pashupatinath Temple and thousands of people from all over Nepal and India flock to the temple to worship Lord Shiva. On the first day of the festivals thousands of worshippers including Sadhus and Naked ascetics throng Pashupatinath Temple early in the morning. Many people keep awake for the whole nights keeping vigilance over an oil lamp burnt to please Lord Shiva. In the afternoon an official function is organized by the Nepalese Army to celebrate this festival at Tundikhel.
Known as the festival of horses, it is one of the most exciting festivals of Kathmandu. Horse race and other sports take place at Tundikhel on this day. On other parts of the city, various deities are carried shoulder-high on Patanquin (Khat) to the accompaniment of traditional music.
This is a colorful occasion when people smear colored powder each other and splash water balloons into one another. The Chir pole is erected at the Kathmandu Durbar Square gaily decorated with colorful flags. That is the formal announcement to everyday to hide all their good clothes and to join in the revelry. At the end of the festival, the Chir pole is taken down and burnt.
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