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Festivals in Nepal

Facts of the Trip

Major Religious Festivals in Nepal

1.    Bhaishak   (April / May)

A.    Nabha Barsha (New year’s day)

The Nepalese New Year is observed on the first day of Bhaishak. This day is observed as an official holiday throughout the country. In Bhaktapur (Kathmandu valley) this festival is commemorated to signify the great holy of Mahabharat and a wooden post is erected as the symbol of victory. The chariots of Bhairab Bhadarakal are taken in procession to the spot where the wooden post is erected. This festival is locally known as “Bisket”  

B.    Full Moon – Buddha Jayanti

Celebration of Lord Buddha’s birth, enlighten and serenity. Nepal is the birth place of Buddha and this festival is equally important to hill and Terai people. This day is also observed as an official Holiday.

2.    Shrawan (July / Aug)

A.    Nag Panchami

This is religious festival observed through the country by worshipping the serpent God. A serpent God’s sketch or picture is posted by the priest on the door of the house. This festival also symbolizes the beginning of raining season.

B.    Gai jatra (Cow Festival)

This is a Newari festival observed in the Kathmandu valley and other hilly regions by Newars. Those who family members have died during the year, send out persons disguised as cow to parade the main through fares of the Bazaar. Dancing, Singing and Hilarity are common. In Kathmandu valley all government offices, schools and collages are closed.

C.    Rakchhya / Raksha Bandhan (Janai Purnima)

One of the most important festivals for the Hindus, especially for those who wear Janai (Sacred Threads). On this day they exchange scared threads. A yellow thread, believed to be holy, is wrapped on the wrist of everybody by the priest. Many people go to lake bath in the holy Gosaikunda as pilgrimage. Gosaikunda is situated in the Ganesh Himal Region. In Kathmandu people take especially prepared seed soups (10 or 12 verities of the bean seeds are boiled together). Government offices, schools and colleges are closed.

D.    Krishna Asthami

This day occurs on the last day of Gai jatra festivities and is jubilated with usual processions with small groups carrying garlanded idols through the streets midst music, dance and chanting. Stories of Krishna are read by pundits, learned scholars in public. In the bazaar, People bring out their paintings depicting the reputed events of Krishna’s life. People gather in Krishna mandir (Temple), Patan to worship from early morning to late nights.

3.    Bhadra (Augu / Sept)

A.    Gokerne Aunshi (Father’s Day)

All the Hindus observe this festival to honor their father presenting gifts and especially prepared foods. Those, whose father is dead, bathe in the river and offer prayers for the salvation and place in the heaven for theirs father’s soul. Buddhist also takes part in this festival.

B.    Tij and Rishi Panchami (Women’s Day)

Festival only for women celebrated all over the country. All women are granted full day leave of absence from government offices, schools and collage. Tij falls on the third day after the full moon. Women fast this day for their husband’s long life. Rishi Panchami falls on the fifth day after the full moon day. Married women and young girls take 365 baths in the Ganges’ tributaries to purify their body and to cut out their unknown seen during their period times. Most women wear Red sari together with all golden ornaments if they have them and also sing and dance along the road.

C.    Fool moon - Indra Jatra

This festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm only in Kathmandu Valley by Hindus and Buddhists.  On this day, Kumari (even if one interprets Kumari as living goddess, it actually means as one who kills or does away with evil doers) is taken procession on big decorated chariots throughout Kathmandu along with Ganesh and Bhairab (Ganesh means one who is to be remembered by or worship, first while doing any religious rites. Bhairab represents a kind of sternness’ and is responsible for destruction of evil things and savior of god ones.) The king used to visits to pay respect to the living goddess and then procession starts. Dances of Mahakali, Mahalaxmi and Dash avatar are staged before kumara palace.

4.    Aswin (sep. / Oct.)

A.    Dashain (The Biggest Festival)

Dashain festivalDashain is the greatest national religious festival for the Nepalese people. This festival is observed throughout the length and breadth of the country. This festival lasts for 15 days. During this festival houses are re decorated and people come from far and wide to join their family. Especially from the seventh day the festival is observed with much enthusiasm. On the eight day large number of goats and buffalo are sacrificed in Kot and Taleju Bhawani temple in Hnuman Dhoka. (Taleju is the feminine deity who always lives in the upper storey and also known as "Manneswari" one who needs to be respected nationally. During this festival people visit various goddess temples viz Durga, Kali and Bhagawati (all are goddess of power). The last day is known as Bijaya Dashami (Victory). On this day people visit their elder relatives and received blessings and meet friends. Elders put Tika (red vermillion and curd and rice) all mixed together to put on forehead). This Tika also symbolizes people's third eye.) And Jamara (Barley plant) National holiday is granted from the first day of the festival)

5.    Kartik (Sep. / Oct.)

A.    Tihar

TiharThis is the second biggest festival for all the Nepalese. This festival is observed all over the country. It lasts for five days. The first day is known as “Kag pooja” Crows are invited and fed well. The second day Dogs are garlanded, offered good food. On the third day Cows are garlanded, worshipped and fed well. During evening in every individual house, The goddess of wealth – Laxmi is worshipped. The children sing “bhilo” by Girls and “Deusuray” by Boys in chorus and visit different houses where they offered presents and money. On the forth day Calf (bull) is worshipped. During that evening all Newars observed “Maha Pooja”, worship of one’s body as this is their New Year. Newars go by Nepali year. The fifth and the last day is brother’s day. On this day all brothers get Tika and nice foods form their sisters. In return sister receives presents and cash and kind. Sister wishes a ling and happy life to their brothers. Those who have no sister or brothers may make god sister or brother and observe this festival. During all these five days houses are decorated with lights at nights. Government offices are closed only on laxmi Pooja (third day) Gobhardhan Poja (forth day) and Bhai Tika (fifth day Brothers day)

During Durga Poja goddess of destruction, Kali is the main goddess. During laxmi Pooja Goddess of wealth, Laxmi is the main goddess. During Shripanchami goddess of learning, Saraswati is the main goddess. Almost at every religious rite ‘Kailash’ is worshipped. Ka – ali, la – laxmi, S (Sh). It is notable that during Durga poja 3 separates vessels as to signify Kali, Laxmi Sharada are worshiped.

6.    Magh (Jan. / Feb.)

Maghe Sankrati

This is religious festival taken place on the first day of the Magh. Form this day, the sun goes to the uttarayan (north course). It marks the turning point between winter and summer. Many people take bath at the confluence of tributaries of the Ganges and offer alms to the poor, worship and chant symns or Bhajan. After the religious performances, people take black sesame cakes mixed with molasses and flat rice, ghee and yam. This food has special religious significance for the day.

7.    Falgun (Feb. / march)

A.    Mahashibaratri

This is one of the greatest Hindu festivals. It is celebrated in honor of lord Shiva (God of Destruction). Large number of devotees, not only Nepal, but also from India visits the temples of Pashupati Nath. Light Mahadeep (Great Lights), Lakhbatti (Hundred thousand light) spend the night in fasting and singing the glory of lord Shiva. There will be a big military parade and 108 rounds of cannon are fired in honor of lord Shiva. H.M the king used to witness the parade and takes royal salute. Government offices, schools and Collages are closed.  

B.    Holi (Festival of Color)

This festival is observed in the Kathmandu valley as well as thought the country with great enthusiasm. People throw ted powder and colored water on their friends. All government offices, schools and collages are closed on this day to observe the mist enjoyable festival.

8.    Chaitra (march / April)

A.    Chaitra Dashain

Chaitra / Chaites Dashain and the Swet Machhindranath (white Machhindranath) are festivals observed in the same week of the Chaitra. The festival of Chaitra Dashain is celebrated by offering Pooja to the Goddess Dugra and Sacrificing goats and buffalos in various temples as well as in Kot and Taleju Bhawani Temple. Machhindranath festival is festival is celebrated by dragging big chariot on which Machhindranath is placed around four days in Kathmandu. This is a Buddhist festival. Government offices, schools and collages are closed on Chaitra Dashain.

B.    Mata Tirtha (Mothers Day)

This festival is known as Mother’s day. The children celebrate this festival by offering sweets, fruits and a good dinner to their mother and solicit their blessing. The children’s of deceased mother observe this festival by offering food to Brahmins and take baths in holy rivers for the salvation of their deceased mother.

C.    Red Machhindranath Jatra

This is one of the most spectacular chariot festivals in Patan (Kathmandu valley). It lasts for a week or more. A very big and tall decorated chariot with Shri Machhindranath is dragged around the jeweled – trimmed jacket of shri Machhindranath will be exhibited to general public. His Majesty the king used to grace this jacket exhibition function. Holiday is granted in government offices, schools and collage only in Kathmandu valley.