6th Dec, 2022
Festivals in Nepal
Nepal is a diverse country with paradise of cultural and religious festivals to observe. Different culture and religion celebrates different kinds of festivals with mutual cooperation, respect and harmony. The festivals have significant values and unique way of celebrating. The festivals are originated from historic events, ancient myths and religious tradition. People observing these festivals find it extremely amusing and interesting.
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Did you know?
Nepal has the largest percentage of Hindu population in the world with 81.3% of people following Hinduism. Also it is the last hindu country until 2006 when it was declared secular.
There are numerous festivals in Nepal in which major and popular festivals in Nepal are listed below:
Baishak (April/ May)
Nawa Barsha (New year’s day)
Nepal has several New Year varying from the culture and the tradition of the people. However the most crucial one is Nawa Barsa. The Nepalese New Year-Naya Barsha is celebrated on the first day of Bikram Sambat Calendar. Just as other countries, this occasion indicates the restart and the reopen of the various official and academic bodies. The people with the religious beliefs perform puja early morning in this festival.
Another annual occasion celebrated in the first of the Baishak is Bisket Jatra. It is celebrated in places like Bhaktapur, Dhapasi Thimi and Tokha where as the most eventful and exciting places are Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Thimi Balkumari. In Bhaktapur, this festival is commemorated to signify the great holy of Mahabharat and a wooden post is erected as the symbol of victory. The post is erected in the evening of New Year and is pulled down in New Year to farewell the last year. The chariots of Bhairab Bhadarakal are taken in procession to the spot where the wooden post is erected.
Buddha Jayanti (Buddha Birthday)
Buddha Purnima is biggest festivals for Buddhist in Nepal. This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of May. The festival is also called as Buddha Purnima, Vaishakh Purnima, Saga Dawa, and Vesak. Since, Nepal is the birthplace of Buddha, the celebration of this festival is huge. People from many countries of Asia visit Nepal during this period.
On this day, three significant event happened; Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and attained Paranirvana. So, this festival is also known as Thrice Blessed Festival. Buddha Jayanti also has great importance in Shakya clan of Newars because they consider it as a continuation of the sage of the Śākyas (the clan that Lord Buddha's family belonged to). This festival is equally important to hill and Terai people.
Shrawan (July / August)
Naag Panchami is a festival mainly celebrated and observed by Hindus of Nepal, India and other countries where Hindu live. Naags refers to the snakes whereas Panchami refers to the fifth day after Amavasya (no-moon day). On this day, snakes (especially Cobras) are worshiped with the offering of milk for the sake of good health, wealth and blessing in our life.
In Nepal, people also celebrate this festival by pasting the picture and painting of snake and serpent deity on the top of the door with cow dung. It is believed to protect the home from the evil spirits. People also believe Naags are the cause of rain. So, this festival also symbolizes the beginning of raining season.
Gai jatra (Cow Festival)
Gai Jatra is a Newari festival observed and celebrated in the Kathmandu valley and other hilly regions by Newars. Those, whose family members have died during the year, send out a person disguised as cow to parade the main through fares of the Bazaar to memorialize the death of the loved ones. Dancing, Singing and Hilarity are common in this festival.
The origin of this festival is very interesting. Back during the rule of Malla dynasty, the Malla Queen was in grief for a long time due to the untimely death of her son. The king then asked every family that lost a loved one to come out in a parade and show the queen that she was not alone to suffer the loss of loved one.
Janai Purnima and Raksha Bandhan
On this day, two of the very significant festival of Hindu is celebrated.
Janai Purnima is celebrated during Shrawan Purnima (full moon) every year. The Brahmin-priest ties a long-yellow holy thread on the wrist of a person Many people go to Gosainkunda Lake to take bath as pilgrimage. In Kathmandu people take especially prepared seed soups (10 or 12 verities of the bean seeds are boiled together). This festival is very important for Brahmins as they wear the Janai (Sacred Threads). The Brahmin people change the Janai on this day.
Another festival celebrated on the full moon of Shrawan is Raksha Bandhan. Raksha Bandhan is a traditional and annual Hindu ceremony celebrated by the influence of Hindu culture. The term "Raksha Bandhan" in sanskrit means "the bond of protection, obligation or care". In this festival, sisters (of all ages) tie a talisman or amulet, called the rakhi around the wrists of their brothers to protect them from dangers. The sister receives a gift in return from their brothers.
Krishna Janma Asthami is a huge festival in Nepal celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is regarded as the eigth avatar of Lord Vishnu. This festival is also known as Krishnashtami, Saatam Aatham, Gokulashtami, Ashtami Rohini, Srikrishna Jayanti. The people fast until midnight on this festival.
This festival is celebrated with usual processions with small groups carrying garlanded idols through the streets midst music, dance and chanting. Stories of Krishna are narrated by the priests and learned scholars. People gather in Krishna mandir (Temple) early morning to worship Lord Krishna. They sing religious songs called bhajans and kirtans. Rasa lila or Krishna Lila (drama) is performed during this festival.
Bhadra (August / September)
Gokerne Aunshi (Father’s Day)
Parents and teachers are regarded as a God in Hindu religion. Father's Day or Gokerne Aunshi is celebrated to honor fathers and the paternal bond. Gokerne Aunshi is also known as Kuse Aunshi, Pitri Tirpani Aunshi or locally called "Baba ko mukh herne". Father’s Day in Nepal is celebrated in the aunsi (no-moon day) of Bhadra (August / September). Gokerne Aunshi or Father’s day in Nepal is not on the same date as International’s Father’s Day.
Most of the people celebrate this festival in Nepal. People feed sweets to their father and present them gifts. The day is observed with delicious foods and feast. However, the people who have lost their father bathe in the river and offer prayers for the salvation and place of their father’s soul in heaven. They also give grains, foods and clothes to the priest.
Teej and Rishi Panchami (Nepali 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. Teej 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 menstruation period. Most women wear Red sari together with ornaments and also sing and dance along the road.
Full 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.
Aswin (September / October)
Dashain (The Biggest Festival)
Dashain 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)
Kartik (September / October)
This 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. It is notable that during Durga poja 3 separates vessels as to signify Kali, Laxmi Sharada are worshiped.
Magh (January / February)
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.
Falgun (February / March)
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.
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.
Chaitra (March / April)
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.
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.
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.