Festival in Nepal

Great Festival

Nepal is a multicultural nation. There are 125 cast and ethnic groups and 123 linguistic group people according to census 2011. Nepal is a place of celebration and festivals which is connected with religion, tradition, and social events. Festival in Nepal occurs daily over the year in one or other communities.

There are communities in Nepal that have almost festivals and Jatras every day. Each day is full of joy and cultural events. Most of the festivals are observed according to the lunar calendar. Therefore, the festivals do not have a specific day matching the solar calendar or the English calendar’s date.  Some of the major and interesting festivals are presented below.

  1.  Naya Varsha (Nepali New Year)

It is known as “Navavarsha” in Nepal. Nepal has its official calendar that begins from the first day of the first month of Baisakh. This very first day is observed as Nepali New Year which usually falls in the second week of April. People go for picnics, have get-togethers, and celebrate the day socializing in various ways as this day is also a national holiday.

  1. Mata Tirtha Aunshi

Mata Tirtha Aunshi falls in the month of Baishak (April). This festival falls in the time of dark moon’s time; so it’s called Mata Tirtha Aunshi. Mata means mother and Tirtha means pilgrimage, so in this way, it’s called Mata Tirtha Aunshi. This festival is observed in the commemoration and respect of the mother. So it’s mother’s reading day as well. All Devotees worship their living mother at their home itself and the person whose mother has been passed away, go to the Mata Tirtha place which is in Kathmandu. A very grand spectacular religions fair takes place at Mata Tirth pilgrimage one this day. Thousands of devotees flock there to worship and to take a holy bath in the pious Mata Tirtha pond in the high reverence of their deceased mothers. After the holy bath and worship, they donate some subsidiary items with money to the barman priests staying.

  1. EID Festival

Ramadan is the month in the Islamic calendar where people fast to commemorate the Prophet Muhammad PBUH (peace be upon him) receiving the revelations in the Quran. Eid al-Fitr is usually two to three days of celebrations at the end of Ramadan. During Ramadan people fast during the day and can only eat after sunset usually with their family. This can make balancing work and life is challenging.

  1. Baisakh Poornima (Lord Buddha’s Birth Anniversary)

As Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, the Light of Asia, the triple anniversary of the Buddha’s birthday is celebrated on this day every year during May in Nepal. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath, Kike Swayambhunath, and Boudhanath to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went in search of enlightenment.

  1. Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra (Bhoto Jatra)

The bhoto jatra of Rato Machhendranath falls in Jestha (May/June), the God of rain and good harvest, is displayed every year. Various legends prevail around this festival. The chariot of Machhendranath is towed to various places of Patan from Pulchowk. One of the legends about the festival is that Machhendra Nath was brought from Kamrup Kamakshya during the regime of King Gunakamdev, the country witnessed drought resulting in 12 years of famine. Rato Macchendranath Jatra is one of the longest festivals celebrated in the ancient city of Patan. The grand finale of the festival is called the ‘Bhoto 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 May/June.

  1. Nag Pachmi

Hindu Nag Panchami festival in August (Shawan). On this day, Nepali traditionally post pictures of Nags above the doors of their homes to keep off evil spirits. They worship the nag by offering a symbol of milk (the white color liquid from the paste of rice). People keep milk for snakes near snake holes.

People make the cotton garland, use cow dung and rice flour’s serpent’s from and worship it with cow’s milk, lava, barley, sesame, nuts, and with some other religious items. It is believed that if Nag-Panchami is observed properly every year the Nags provide us good health wealth and blessing during our life. If Nags are angry they make us sick and no medicine can heal.

Some norms and values believe that the earth is lifted by Shesh Nag on his head. Lord Vishnu is sleeping on its coil inside the Ocean. Kali Nag, Bashuki Nag, Astha Nag, Padma Nag, and the Karkot Nags are the very powerful Nags. Scripture explains that without Nags’ help there will be no rain. So people worship Nags for the cause of water, offer prayers to Nags, and place food items such as milk and honey in their fields for Nags. Few men wearing demon masks dance in the streets as a part of a Nag Panchami ritual.

  1. Janai Purnima/Rakshya Bandhan

Janai Purnima is observed in the month of Shrawan/Bhadau (August). It is called Rakshya Bandhan as this festival observes the bond of purity and security.  This festival is celebrated by Hindus all over the world. The Brahmans and Chretry community ties in Nepal change their sacred thread Janai on this day from their guru after taking a holy bath or deep in the river. Janai is tied long from around their left neck to the next right armpits below.

Rakshya means “to protect” and Bandhan is “tie” or “bond”. Rakshya Bandhan is a bond or tie of protection. This thread is which is tied around the hand is called Doro. Some people even In Raksha Bandhan day male, female, children, and kids regardless of status and caste get tied a Doro (sacred colorful thread) around their wrist. Generally, males get tied the thread around their right and the women around their left wrist.

  1. Gaijatra (Cow festival)

According to the lunar calendar, this festival is the second day of Janai Purnima Shrawan/Bhadau (August). This festival is grandly in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan cities. Pratap Malla lost his very young son. His wife, the queen was in great misery. The king was very disappointed to see the condition of his queen. King after millions of tries could not make the queen smile. Pratap announced that anyone who could make the queen laugh would be rewarded adequately.

Pratap Malla asked to bring the cow procession before the sad queen.  Then people tried their best with different costumes and humorous acts. The dance and procession finally gave the queen a smile on her face. The smile at the moment was temporary but the procession gave the queen a big relief. She knew that there are several deaths in the city during the period and she is not alone. Death is a natural phenomenon and no one has control over it.

Hence, from the day King Pratap Malla started the tradition of cow procession with boys with different funny make-ups in funny. The boys even put on tails and makeup like monkeys and Hanuman walk through the city road to show people that death is the truth in life and everyone has to face it one day. The Gai Jatra tradition slowly developed into doing humorous acts including jokes, satires, mockery, and lampoon in the Gai Jatra days.

Gai Jatra is a festival that enables people to accept the reality of death and to prepare themselves for the life after death. It heals the grief and sorrow, at least a little, when people see the cow possession and realize people die, and we are not alone in the country that lost our loved ones.

  1. Krishana Ashtami/Janmashtami

Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasm in Nepal and India. According to the Hindu calendar, this religious festival is celebrated on the Ashtami of Krishna Paksha or the 8th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Bhadra (July/August).

Sri Krishna is considered one of the most powerful human incarnations of Lord Vishnu. He was born around 5,200 years ago in Mathura. The sole objective of Sri Krishna’s birth was to free the Earth from the evilness of demons. He played an important role in Mahabharata and propagated the theory of bhakti and good karma which are narrated deeply in the Bhagwat Geeta.

Sri Krishna was born in a prison in the custody of Kansa. Vasudev, His father immediately thought of his friend Nand and decided to hand over his child to him to save Krishna from the clutch of Kansa. Krishna grew up in Gokul and finally killed his maternal uncle, King Kansa.

The actual celebration of Janmashtami takes place during the midnight as Sri Krishna is believed to be born on a dark, stormy, and windy night to end the rule and violence of his maternal uncle, Kansa. All over Nepal and India, this day is celebrated with devotional songs and dances, pujas, arti, blowing of the Conch, and rocking the cradle of baby Sri Krishna. On this day temples and homes are wonderfully decorated and illuminated. Night-long prayers are offered and religious mantras are sung in the temples.

  1. Kushe Aushi

Hindus celebrate this festival at the end of August or September (Bhadra). The Hindu Mythology says that there are four things in which Lord Bishnu stays and those are the Saligram stone, Tulsi plant tree, Pipal Tree, and the Kush grass. On Kushe Aushi day the priest gives everyone the Kush grass so that the lord Bishnu stays in all the houses.

Nepalese tradition and culture hold a lot of respect for a father. He is considered the pillar of strength, high opinion, and support of a family. The most auspicious day to honor one’s father is Gokarna Aunsi. This is a special day set apart for the veneration of one’s father. On this auspicious day, sons, as well as daughters, go home to meet and spend quality time with their fathers. Home-cooked delicacies, sweets, meat, and other gifts are offered to all fathers.

  1. Haritalika Teej

Hartalika is a combination of “harit” and “aalika” which means “abduction” and “female friend” respectively. According to the legend of Hartalika Teej, Goddess Parvati, incarnated as Goddess Shailaputri, was the daughter of Himalaya who promised her hand in marriage to Lord Vishnu, at the suggestion of Narada. But, she wants to married with lord Shiva from her childhood. Upon hearing this, Goddess Parvati told her friend of her father’s decision whereupon the friend took Goddess Parvati to the thick forest so that her father would not marry her to Lord Vishnu against her wish. At last she married with lord Shiva according to her wish.

This festival is celebrated in August/September /Bhadra. Women clad in beautiful red saris with shining potes (glass beads), singing and dancing are the sights almost everywhere in Nepal during the festival of Teej. On this day women observe a fast and pray to Lord Shiva for the long, healthy, and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried women also observe this festival with unabated zeal with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.

  1. Indra Jatra

Indra Jatra was started by King Gunakamadeva to commemorate the founding of Kathmandu city in the 10th century. Kumari Jatra began in the mid-18th century. The celebrations are held according to the lunar calendar, so the dates are changeable normally this festival lies in September/Ashoj.  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 especially noted for the echoes of drums and dancing feet of the masked dancers almost every evening.

According to legend, Indra (Hindu god-king of heaven), disguised as a farmer, and descended to earth in search of parijat (Night jasmine), a white flower his mother Basundhara needed to perform a ritual. As he was plucking the flowers at Maruhiti, without permission of the gardener, the people caught and bound him like a common thief. He was then put on display in the town square of Maru in Kathmandu.

His mother, worried about his extended absence, Elephant was looking for his lord to return back but he couldn’t find his Master, elephant angrily broke his restraints and crashed around the Kathmandu valley. At last, his mother Basundhara came to Kathmandu and wandered around looking for him. His mother promised to provide enough dew throughout the winter to ensure a rich crop. It is said that Kathmandu starts to experience foggy mornings from this festival onwards because of this boon.

  1. Jitiya Parva

Jitiya is an important festival of Nepali married women of Mithilanchal and Tharu women of all castes. Jitiya vrata is performed for the wellbeing and long life of her sons. It is performed on Aswin Krishna Ashtami usually during Pradosh time.

Nepali women observe Nirjala fast (without water) on this day and break the fast the next day at the end of Ashtami. Sometimes, when Ashtami begins in the afternoon, women may have to fast for two days. Since nothing, even a drop of water is put in the mouth, the fast is also called Khar Jitia.

Children who escaped severe accidents are believed to have the blessings of their mother having performed this brat. It is a trend or tradition to eat fish and chapatti (roti, bread) made of millet (Marua) the previous day. In the night prior to fast, they take a meal just before the beginning of Ashtami. This is peculiar to this fasting only. Often children are awoken and fed the preparations. This is known as Ongthan.

  1. Vijaya Dashain

During the month of Asoj/Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creeds throughout the country.

The fifteen days of celebration occur during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out the kingdom of Nepal, the goddess Durga in all her manifestations is worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings, and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood.

Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorized the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo.

The first nine days signify the nine days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolize the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.

The first day of Dashain i.e. Ghatasthapana:

On this day the Kalash, (holy water vessel) symbolizes goddess Durga often with her image embossed on the side is placed in the prayer room. The Kalash is filled with holy water and covered with cow dung on which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the Kalash is put in the center. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The Ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular moment, the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.

The room where the Kalash is established is called ‘Dashain Ghar’. Generally, women are not allowed to enter the room where Dashain puja is being carried out. A priest or a household man worships the Kalash every day once in the morning and then in the evening. The Kalash and the sand are sprinkled with holy water every day and it is shielded from direct sunlight.

By the tenth day, the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. The sacred yellow grass is called ‘Jamara’. It is bestowed by the elders atop the heads of those younger to them during the last five days when tika is put on. The Jamara is taken as a token of Goddess Durga as well as the elder’s blessing.

The seventh day is called ‘Fulpati’:

In Fulpati, the royal Kalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, Jamara, and sugar cane tied with red cloth is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold-tipped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the Fulpati parade. With this, the Dashain feasting starts.

The eighth day is called the Maha Asthami:

The fervor of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house throughout the day. The night of the eighth day is called ‘Kal Ratri’, the dark night.

The ninth day is called Navami:

Temples of the mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered to honor Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood.

On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments, and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, airplanes, trucks, etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire day is colorful.

The tenth day is the Dashami:

On this day we take Tika and Jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their homes and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessings from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far-off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives, Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day.

On the last day, people stay at home and rest. The full moon day is also called ‘Kojagrata’ meaning ‘who is awake’. The Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshipped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is given an invitation to visit each and every one.

After Dashain, everyone settles back to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power, and wealth. Dashain thus is not only the longest festival but also the most anticipated one among all the festivals of Nepal.

  1. Tihar (Deepawali)

There are various stories about the celebration of Tihar. One of the famous stories behind the celebration of Tihar is related to Yama the god of death and his sister the Yamuna. Yama had been staying away from his sister for a long time. His sister wanted to meet him so she asked various sources to visit him and ask him to give her a visit. She sent crow, dog, and cow and at the end, she went herself to see her brother. She worshipped him with tika and flowers, she put him five colored tika.

The Yamuna made a circle with mustard oil, Dubo Grass (Cynodon Dactylon), and put Makhmali Mala (Globe Amaranth) and asked Yamaraj not to go till the oil, Dubo Grass and the flower gets dry. Therefore, every sister worships her brother keeping him in the circle of mustard oil, putting mala (garland) of Makhmali flower and Dubo grass.

First day/Kag Tihar (Crow Puja):

On the first day of Tihar, crows are worshiped and fed early in the morning. People leave different food items outside for crows to eat. Crow is considered to be the messenger of death. People believe the crow gets the messages to the house in the morning. People worship it to bring good luck themselves.

Second day/Kukur Tihar:

The second day of tihar is dedicated to the most loyal friend of mankind. Kukur, the dog, Puja is done by putting a red tika on the dog’s forehead and flower garland around the neck offering him foods and Sel roti. Generally, male dogs are worshiped. It is said dogs can see endangers and death coming.

Third day/Gai (cow) Puja and Laxmi Puja:

On the third day of Tihar Cows are worshipped in the morning. Cows are worshipped with sesame oil light, a garland of flowers, and red color (abir). Wheat flour, Sel roti, rice, and dal are fed to cows.  Disciples try to pass in-between four legs of the cow. A cow is regarded as the mother in the Hindu religion, as we grow up drinking her milk. Some look at cows as Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

In the afternoon we clean our houses, paint floors with Red Mud (Rato Mato) and cow dung (gobar). Small circles are made in front of the main gate and decorated with colorful designs. Some people call it rangoli. Small designs of footsteps are painted from the main entrance to the puja Kotha. These footsteps are believed to be the footsteps of goddess Lakshmi. Candles or pala are lit all over the house making it bright and beautiful.

There is a long tradition of going housed in the evening singing songs to ask for money and food. Generally, girls and kids go out to neighbors sing traditional songs called Bhailo songs. The tradition is called “Bhailo” and songs are called Bhailini songs.

Fourth day/Goru Tihar (Govardhan puja) and Mah (Aatma) Puja:

On Govardhan puja, Goru Tihar, three different Kinds of puja are performed. We perform Goru Puja or worship Oxen. We also perform Govardhan Puja, which is done by making a hill of Govardhan Parbat using Cow dung. Cow dung has big importance in Hindu culture. In the old days, it was used for everything from light at night (Methane) to the polished mud floors of traditional houses. Still, now no Puja is complete without cow dung in Nepali Hindu culture.

Fifth Day: Bhai Tika:

The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. These days sisters put “Tika of five colors” Paanch Rangi Tika – Yellow, green, red, blue, and white on the forehead of her brothers, to ensure long life and pray to Yamraja for her brother’s long life and prosperity. Sister offers brothers Shaguns of dry fruits especially walnut, hazelnut (Katus), fruits, and sweets, and in return, the brothers give their sisters gifts and money. The brothers also put Pancha Rangi Tika to her sister bow her on her feet and assure her to protect her till the end of life.

On this day, Rani Pokhari Temple (located in central Kathmandu) is opened for those who do not have any brothers or sisters. This is the only time in a year the temple is open to the general public.

  1. Chhat Parba

Chhath Parva attracts thousands of pilgrims to the holy town of Janakpur in south-eastern Nepal. But it is celebrated all over Nepal including Kathmandu where people from the Terai gather along the banks of rivers especially Bagmati to worship. The goal they say is to achieve purity both physical and spiritual.

Devotees from Nepal and India throng the ancient city of Janakpur to worship at the famous Janaki Temple and take ritual baths in the rivers and ponds. It is a three-day festival with the first day spent cleaning the kitchen and preparing for the fast.

On the second day, devotees fast from the morning and spend the day preparing their offerings of fruits, sweets nuts, etc. In the evening they gather at the banks of rivers and ponds to wait for the sun to set. They light lamps, sing songs, and wade into the water to pray and make offerings to the fading sun. Lighted oil-wick lamps are set afloat on the river and it is a beautiful sight to behold.

After the sun goes down the devotees return home. The worshippers are almost exclusively women with most men just watching. The ritual is repeated the next morning at dawn when they wait for the sun to rise. As the sun comes up over the horizon there is euphoria and devotees scramble to offer prayers, holy water, fruits, coconuts, and sacred threads.

The ritual is also to ask the sun for protection from skin diseases. When it is over the offerings are distributed and the women break their fast.

  1. Guru Falgunanda Jayanti

Guru Falgunanda Jayanti or Phalgunanda Lingden was born in 1885 AD Kartik 25 (November 10). Guru Falgunand, who was born in Ilam, Eastern Nepal, is believed to have had wonderful and miraculous qualities. He was a leader of the Kirat religion in Nepal. It takes a long time for the arrival of great Gurus into this earth. It believes that only one Guru is born at a time. Such great personalities, based on their knowledge, experience, and skills, have been guiding society towards the positive path and showing the way to salvation for ages. And today we are going to reveal the facts and histories of the birth anniversary of such a man.

Guru Falgunanda has played an invaluable role in bringing the highly decent and nature-loving Kirant community.  Living in the hilly districts into the mainstream of development, deepening them socially, economically, and culturally, and influencing education. Similarly, Guru Falgunand has a huge contribution to bringing the Kirant community out of the orthodox tradition. This is the reason after hundreds of years, the work and fame of Guru Falgunand is being praised in the Kirant community.

He is known as a great teacher, especially among the Limbu, Rai, Sunuwar, Yakhkha, Lohorung, Dhimal, and Jurel Kirat people. And he is credited with the continuation of the ancient Kirat religion on puritan principles. Which include vegetarianism, a ban on alcohol, and following Limbu traditions and scripts.  He is remembered for his socio-cultural and religious messages. His main message includes calling for a ban on animal sacrifice. Since that taboo raises social expenditures on celebrations such as births, weddings, and funerals. He also called for the elimination of social orthodoxies. And supports running a school for children, especially through their mother tongue.

  1. Guru Nanak Jayanti

Guru Nanak Jayanti, also known as Gurpurab, is the most important festival for the followers of the religion of Sikhism. It is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev. The festival is celebrated on the day of Kartik Poornima, which is the fifteenth lunar day in the month of Kartik according to the Hindu calendar, and usually falls in the month of November by the Gregorian calendar.

Guru Nanak was born on April 15, 1469, at Rai Bhoi Ki Talwandi, near Lahore, which is in the Sekhpura district of modern-day Pakistan. A Gurudwara was built at his birthplace in the city now known as Nankana Sahib. It is located in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Guru Nanak is regarded as a spiritual teacher who founded Sikhism in the 15th century. He started writing the Guru Granth Sahib and completed 974 hymns.

The main verses from the Guru Granth Sahib elaborate that the creator of the universe was one. His verses also preach selfless service to humanity, prosperity, and social justice for all, irrespective of differences. The role of a Guru as a spiritual and social master forms the basis of the Sikh religion.

  1. Constitution Day

Nepal is governed according to the Constitution of Nepal, which came into effect on Sept 20, 2015 (2072, Asoj 3), replacing the Interim Constitution of 2007 (2063 BS). The Constitution was drafted by the Second Constituent Assembly following the failure of the First Constituent Assembly to produce a constitution in its mandated period.

The constitution was endorsed by 90% of the total lawmakers. Out of 598 CA members, 507 voted in favor of the constitution while 25 voted against and 66 members of the Constituent Assembly mainly representing political parties based in Terai boycotted the final debates on the constitution as a protest against states delimitation and inclusion of minorities and Madhesi population in the national and public life.

President Ram Baran Yadav announced the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal, 2015 (2072 BS) at a special meeting of the Constituent Assembly on September 20, 2015(2072, Asoj 3). The President announced the commencement of the new constitution endorsed by the CA and as authenticated by CA Chairperson Subas Chandra Nembang.

  1. Bala Chaturdashi

Balachaturdashi is also one of the pious festivals of the Hindus. It falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of Mangsir (November/ December). Thousands of Hindu devotees from across Nepal have congregated in the Pashupatinath temple to pay homage to their near and dear ones, who died over the last year, on the occasion of Bala Chaturdashi. Camping under the open sky or tents arranged by the Pashupati Area Development Trust, the bereaved ones observe penance the whole night, lighting oil lamps and keeping themselves awake throughout the night, praying for the departed souls to rest in heaven.

Story Behind Bala Chaturdashi:

Bala Nanda, a trader, came to Arya Ghat (where people are cremated through burning), to attend the funeral of one of his relatives. Bala Nanda sitting nearby and eating the ceremonial food, a small portion of the dead body popped out from the fire into his plate. He unknowingly swallowed the flesh of the dead body that fell into his plate. Soon he swallowed the flesh he transformed into a horrible demon with having a silver head. He became a cannibal (man-eating human meat). Bala Nanda suddenly grabbed a dead body from the fire and started eating it. People were terrified and ran away.

Then onwards he is called Balsur. Asur means Demon. (Bala+Asur=Balasur). Arya Ghat then became the favorite place for Balasur. People were scared to go to Arya Ghat to cremate dead relatives. People pleaded with the king to solve the problem. King assigned Brisha Singh, a very good friend of Balasur to kill him. Brisha manages to kill Balasur by betrayal.

Brisha felt guilty to deceive Bala. He went to meditation in the Sleshmantak Ban (forest) and enchanted Om and prayed to Lord Shiva for the rescue of his friend Balasur. Lord Shiva was pleased by his sincere affection for his friend.  Where Lord Shiva helped in the salvation of Balasur. Lord Shiva also told Brisha to scatter sat biu or seven varieties of grain, on the holy grounds of the Shlesmantak forest to cleanse the sin of Balasur and to erase his own guilt for killing a friend. From that day, the tradition of Dropping Seven Grains (Sat biu) started.

  1. Bibaha Panchami

Sita Bibaha Panchami is the auspicious day when the princesses of Janakpurdham Sita married the prince of Ayodhya Ram Chandra. Sita was daughter of king Janak of Janakpur. She is also known as the daughter of earth. Ram was the son of King Dasharath of Ayodhya. Sita and Ram were married are on Marga Sulka Panchami (December/Mangsir). The marriage anniversary of Lord Ram Chandra and Sita is celebrated at Janaki Mandir in Janakpurdham. The temple is filled with thousands of people from all across Nepal and India. A grand celebration is organized in Janaki temple.  The temple is decorated as a real marriage Mandap (a Hindu marriage place).

  1. Udauli Parva

Udhauli is a festival of the Kirat communities of Rai people specially celebrated by Bantawa, Lohorung, unaware, Yakkha, etc of Nepal, India, and around the world by Kirati People celebrated every year marking the migration phase downwards towards the low-altitude regions when the winter season arrives. The migration from the low-altitude areas upwards to hilly areas is called Ubhauli (upwards), which is also an annual festival of these communities. On the Udhauli festival day, the Kirat people offer thanks to Mother Nature for providing a good harvest.

Udauli festival is celebrated by all Kirat people. It is believed that from this day the winter season starts. So people, birds, and animals migrate from cold regions to warmer regions. It’s mainly celebrated in the eastern region of Nepal by dancing an exotic dance called Sakela commonly known as Chandi. The dance is very popular in Nepal which is performed by dancing harmoniously in a circle with the beat of Dhol/drum, Jhyamta/cymbals, etc. The main destinations for the Sakela are Dharan, Dhankuta, Pathari, Kanepokhari, Kerabari etc.This event of the Kirat people has also been stated in the Mundhum (holy book of the Kirat people).

  1. Tamu Losar

Tamu is another name of the Gurung community of Nepal and Losar means New Year. Tamu Losar is the celebration of Gurung’s New Year. The Tamu Losar marks the beginning of the Tamu Sambat or Gurung Calendar Year.  Tamu Losar is celebrated on every 15 Poush of the Nepali calendar (in December/January). This year Losar is on 30th December 2013 on Sunday.

Losar is the time when family members of all generations get together and exchange love and greetings. In big cities, Gurungs come together to celebrate Tamu Losar (Gurung’s New Year) at a commonplace and rejoice in various cultural processions, feasting, and greetings.

In the old days in the villages, they gathered in courtyards to celebrate Losar. At Kathmandu, Losar is celebrated in Tundikhel ground at the city center vibrant with colorful stalls and people flooding inside on Poush 15 under Nepali Bikram Sambat Calendar. Push 15 marks the end of winter and the start of spring that also brings warmness and charm to Tamu Losar.

Gurungs all across the world celebrate Tamu Losar by organizing rallies in traditional attires and cultural programs. They also visit Buddhist shrines on that day. The days in Losar and the events are the opportunities for Nepal travelers to witness cultural heritages of the Gurung community

  1. Christmas Day

Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. The English term Christmas (“mass on Christ’s day”) is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term Yule may have derived from the Germanic jol or the Anglo-Saxon Geol, which referred to the feast of the winter solstice. The corresponding terms in other languages, Navidad in Spanish, Natale in Italian, Noel in French all probably denote nativity. The German word Weihnachten denotes “hallowed night.” Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike, devoid of Christian elements, and marked by an increasingly elaborate exchange of gifts. In this secular Christmas celebration, a mythical figure named Santa Claus plays a pivotal role.

Christmas Day celebrates the Nativity of Jesus which according to tradition took place on December 25th 1 BC. December  25th will be a public holiday in most countries around the world. If 25 December falls on a weekend, then a nearby weekday may be taken as a holiday in lieu.

The Federation started marking Christmas Day as a major celebration in Nepal in 2063 BS (2006). The government had declared Christmas Day as a national holiday for the next 11 years. However, since 2075 BS (2018) it has been a public holiday only for Nepal’s estimated three million Christians.

  1. Prithvi Jayanti

This occasion is celebrated in January (Poush 27) in honor of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal. ‘Birthday of Prithvi Narayan Shah’; also known as the National Unification Day or National Unity Day is an observance annually celebrated on 11 January to commemorate the birth of King Prithvi Narayan Shah who was the first king of unified Nepal. In the mid-18th century, he set out to unify small kingdoms which would become present-day Nepal.

During the observance, many people add a garland to statues of Shah, participate in the parades, and remember his contribution to Nepal. Prithvi Jayanti was celebrated as a public holiday from 1951 until its abolishment in 2006. However, some local governments in Gorkha District and Nuwakot District have declared Prithvi Jayanti to be a public holiday. There is some pressure from some Nepalese citizens to reinstate it as a federal holiday.

  1. Sonam Losar

The Sherpas most impressively observe this festival in the month of January/February/Magh. They organize folk songs and dances on this occasion. These dances can be seen in Kathmandu, Helambu, and other northern regions of Nepal and also at Bouddhanath in Kathmandu. Sonam Losar falls on different dates each year in Bikram Sambat and English calendar. This calendar is an ancient Tibetan/Chinese lunar calendar. The New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (rarely the third if an intercalary month intervenes). That is on Magh Sukla Pratipada, under the eastern lunar calendar.

Tamang has a tradition of counting years with an association of symbols of 12 different animals. It starts with Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Nowadays Tamangs in Kathmandu and nearby gather in Tudikhel to celebrate Soman Losar. They organized different programs there. The attractions are generally pooja, Lok Dohari competitions, Food Festivals, Dramas, etc.

  1. Maghe Shakranti

Generally Makar Sankranti falls on 14 January, and is called Makar Sankranti or Maghi in the Indian subcontinent. Maghe Sankranti is a major harvest festival celebrated in Madhesh and Tharuhat of Nepal. The movement of the sun from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti and as the Sun moves into the Capricorn zodiacal sign known as Makara, this occasion is named as Makara Sankranti in the Pahari context. It is one of the few Nepalese festivals of Madhesi and Tharu people celebrate it on a fixed date, i.e., 14 January because this solar festival in the honor of deity Surya follows the solar cycle of the Bikrami calendar, unlike other festivals that follow the lunar cycle.

Maghe Sankranti is regarded as marking the beginning of an auspicious phase in Nepalese culture. It’s cited as the ‘holy phase of transition’. It marks the end of an inauspicious phase which according to the Hindu calendar begins around mid-December. It is believed that any auspicious and sacred ritual can be sanctified in any Nepali family, from this day onwards. Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of the winter season and the beginning of a new harvest or spring season

  1. Shree Panchami/Basanta Panchami

Basanta Panchami is also one of the very important festivals. It falls in the bright fortnight of Magh January/February (Magh/Falgun). In this festival, Saraswati mother the Goddess of knowledge is worshipped grandly by all especially by the students, teachers, and scholars.  She is the mother of education and she is believed to be the Guru (teacher) of all kinds of education; and without her worship, we can’t get good knowledge.

A huge assemblage of devotees takes place in every Saraswati temple of the country to worship the Goddess. This occasion is called the Shree Panchami as well. Guardians take their small children to the temple and they are given some writing chalks in their hands to start the education by writing on the wall of the temple. Devotees believe that if the children are taken to start their education from the Saraswati temple on this day, they will become a very efficient and educated people of the country in the future.

  1. National Democracy Day

National Democracy Day is celebrated on the 7th of Falgun, usually on the third week of February. It is also known as Rashtriya Prajatantra Diwas celebrated to commemorate the day when Nepalese were free from the clutches of 104 Years long Rana Autocracy. People and the then ruler king Tribhuvan united to topple the autocratic regime on this very day in 2007 BS. It was the day when democracy was first institutionalized in the country. On this special occasion, a government holiday is provided to all of the staff to celebrate the day by paying tribute to known and unknown martyrs during that period. A special function is organized to mark the day in the Army pavilion, Tudikhel.

  1. Maha Shivaratri

Shivaratri or the Night of Lord Shiva is observed. It 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. Usually, during the month of Magh/Falgun (February or March) in the Hindu calendar, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated. The celebration usually falls before the arrival of the spring season. The day is known as the Great Night of Shiva.

On this day Shiva is said to have saved the world from destruction on the condition that people worshipped him with great pride and enthusiasm. Other legends say that Shiva named this specific day when the goddess Parvati asked. Maha Shivaratri is a major festival within the Hinduism culture because it marks a remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance in the world. During this day, the culture observes the day by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, doing yoga, and meditating. Ethics and virtues of self-restraint, honesty, kindness to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva are the primary focuses and ultimate goals.

  1. Gyalpo Lhosar

It is the Tibetan New Year, which is widely celebrated by the Sherpa, Hyolmo, and Bhotiya communities of Nepal. They celebrate this festival differently, according to their traditions. Although Gyalpo Lhosar is celebrated for two weeks, the first three days are the main to celebrate. The second day of these 3 days is the main day to celebrate it.

Those who celebrate this festival extremely enjoy various activities. They wear traditional dresses, sing and dance in chorus, play musical instruments, eat and drink various homemade items, gathering and spiritual performances is made. People visit the nearby monasteries, shortens, and Stupas. Some ceremonial dances represent the tussle between Gods and Demons based on the Tibetan Lunar calendar.

  1. Falgu Purnima

The festival of colors and joy is here at the door of every Nepalese. Fagu Purnima also named as Holi festival is one of the most fun festivals is celebrated with different vibrant colors and water in Nepal and in India. Holi is celebrated to exchange brotherhood and to celebrate with families and friends. It falls in the month of Falgun /Chait (February or March) on hold Purnima.

The myth following Holi, reveals that a fiend named Holika together with her brother, an atheist king by the name of Hiranyakasyapu conspired ways to kill his son Pralhad because Pralhad was an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. But their attempts always failed for Lord Vishnu protects those who love him. Finally, Holika having received a blessing from Lord Bramha to be immune to fire jumped in with Pralhad. But Brahma’s blessing could only be used for good purposes and so Holika was consumed by the fire whereas Pralhad was saved by the grace of the Gods. Thus, Holi is said to be celebrated to rejoice Holika’s extermination and the traditional bonfires are believed to commemorate her death.

  1. Ghodejatra

Ghode Jatra, meaning Horse Parade is organized in Tudikhel in Kathmandu every year. Ghode Jatra is organized on the no-moon day of Chaitra Sukla Paksha of the Eastern Lunar calendar. This parade is organized and performed by Nepal Army and Police together. Similarly, This occasion falls about mid-March or early April (Chaitra).  A big horse parade takes place at Tundikhel.

Idol of Gods Lumadi, Bhadrakali, Kankeshwari, and Bhairav are brought to Asan Chok during the daytime at the main celebration and at night in Tundikhel. This day these Gods meet together every year

Ghode Jatra was organized to celebrate the victory over a demon named Tundi who resides over the field known as Tundikhel. Tundi was a big terror for the people of Kathmandu. When she died people cheered by dancing onto his body with horses. Thus, It is believed that the galloping of horses on Ghode Jatra at Tundikhel keeps the demon’s spirit under the ground.

Thus, Nepal is the country of Festival.

Posted by

Kapil Banjara

Kapil is been working for 7 years in the tourism industry as a professional tour guide. He is a resource person of Nepalese society and politics with culture and tourism under Tribhuvan University for 8 years.
Kapil has also published a tourism-related book titled “Nepalese society and politics with culture and tourism” from Buddha Publication. He has been completed his master’s degree in different social subjects such as Population Studies, Political Science, Educational Planning and Management, and sociology.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Language Translate »