Some Major Festivals in Nepal

Festival in Nepal


Nepal is a land of Festivals. It is said that each day is celebrated as a festival here in Nepal. Festivals effectively bind together the Nepalese people of diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs into one nation. There are many festivals in Nepal some related to only particular ethnic groups but some festivals are of national significance such as Dashain or Tihar; some are confined to the Katmandu Valley, while still others are celebrated only within one or two villages or cities. For Nepalese it's a living part of their rich cultural heritage. On a festival day the Nepalese take their ritual bath, worship different gods and goddesses, visit the temple, observe fasting and undertake feasting.

Baisakh (April and May)

Mother's Day/Mata Tirtha Aunshi
This festival is also known as the day of "looking upon mother's face" or "aama ko mukh herne". On this auspicious day, sons bow and touch their mother's feet with their forehead and offer sweets and other gifts and daughters offer gifts and sweets to their mother. The mother in turns give blessing to their offspring. Those whose mothers are already dead take a holy dip in Mata Tirtha pond, which is situated 8-km southwest of Kathmandu.

Buddha Jayanti
It is the day when Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha in Lumbini of southern Nepal on full moon day over 2,500 years ago when he was enlightened and when he attained Nirvana (Salvation). In the Kathmandu valley, this festival is also known as "Swanya Punhi", or the full moon day of flowers. The main ceremonies take place around the massive stupa of Swayambhu situated atop a hillock to the west of the city and Boudhanath.

Jestha (May - June)

Red Machendranath Jatra
This festival is also known as Bunga -Dyo Jatra and takes place in the city of Patan. Bunga Dyo, is the Buddhist as well as Hindu deity of rain. During the festival the deity's image is put in a towering chariot and pulled by ropes through the narrow streets of the city followed by a large crowd of worshippers accompanied by a small crowd of traditional musicians adding even more excitement to the occasion.

Ashadh ( June - July )

It is celebrated in all the Sherpa settlements in the month of July. The Sherpas of Kathmandu and Helambu regions participate in dancing on this day.

Generally, there are no such major festivals in this month. Being the rainy season, this month is the peak time for harvesting crops.

Shravan (July - August)

Naag Panchami
In, Hinduism, the Naag or the snake is considered as divine. The Naag or the divine serpents are believed to be a guardian of the ground and power over the Monsoon rainfall. On this day of Naag Panchami, devotees paste pictures of the Naag over their doorways and pay homage. Milk and rice are left outside the door holes and corners to assure the blessings of the serpent god. Devotees also take the holy dip in the pond name as Taudaha, which is 6 km to the south of Kathmandu. There they worship Karkotak Naag, the serpent king.

Rishi Panchami
Rishi Panchami falls on the third day of Teej. On this day, the seven rishis, or sages, of the Hindu pantheon are worshipped by women to cleanse all sins of the previous year. Sages are the symbol of the purity of religion and holy practices in this earth. Especially Women clean their teeth and bathe at the holy rivers especially at the Bagmati River near the Temple of Pashupatinath.

Bhadra (August - September)

Teej is a festival of womanhood. This is a special festival for married women who are supposed to fast all day and bathe in the holy waters of the rivers. In this day married women are supposed to wear red and a lot of ornaments. The day recalls the heavenly occasion when Parvati, daughter of the Himalaya, won the hand of Lord Shiva after severe meditation and fasting. The night before this day, women gather together to feast and take heavy foods and sweets for next day's fasting. Although having a severe fasting even without water, they sing and dance and share their feelings by means of songs among sisters and friends. It is believed that their married life will be long and happy and they will not lose their husbands if they celebrate this festival.

Gai Jatra
In this festival, every family who has lost a relative during the past year must participate in a parade through the streets of Kathmandu leading a decorated cow. It is believed that the sacred animal, Cow, helps departed souls to cross the Baitarni River or cosmic ocean in their journey into the after world. The other part of Gai Jatra is humour. Comic dramas and street shows making fun of government officials are performed; Newspapers bring out special "mad" editions. In this festival at Kathmandu, people proceed along the festival route individually. In Bhaktapur, tall bamboo poles, wrapped in cloth and topped with horns made up of straw are carried around the city in the memory of death.

Gokarna Aunshi
In this festival the sacred bathing ceremony of god Janma-dyo takes place. The holy water, which is used to bathe the god, consists of butter, honey, milk, curd, and sugar. Priests collect the bath water and sprinkle it over the devotees as blessings. After ritual washing, the image is put in the sun and painted meticulously to give it a fresh look and then he is given a new silken robe. This day is also celebrated as father's day, "babu-ko-mukh-herne" and sons and daughters offer good food and gifts to their father in this day as an honour to their father.

Ashwin (September - October)

This is the biggest festival in Nepal and lasts fifteen days in all but the main festivities are concentrated in nine days. Dasain represents the victory of good over evil, as according to legend it commemorates the killing of a demon by the goddess Durga. The first day of the festival is known as Ghatasthapana - the placing of the sacred vessel where Barley seeds are planted in the sand and nurtured for 9 days. During this festival all the government offices and schools will be closed. The skies of Kathmandu will be filled with kites and the marketplaces are filled with farmers bringing their buffaloes, goats and chickens to sell. The 8th day of the festival is known as Mahashtami and is marked by a fast by all orthodox Hindus. In the morning, animal sacrifices are carried out at temples dedicated to the Goddess Durga. Similar sacrifices are made throughout the country and on this day practically every household in Nepal eats meat. On 9th day, vehicles and other mechanical items are worshipped and sacrificed so as to prevent accidents during the coming year. The peak of Dashain celebrations is reached on the 10th day known as Vijaya Dashami, the day of victory. On this day, all Hindus and Buddhists, in their fineries visit their elder to seek blessing and tika (a dab of red vermilion powder mixed with curd and rice) and shoots of the barley know as Jamara, (which are planted on the 1st day). As all visits cannot be completed in one day, they continue until the end of the festival, Kojagrat Purnima. The main highlights of the festival are new clothes, grand feasts and kites flying.

Kartik (October - November)

Tihar is doubtlessly known as the Nepal's second most important festival, which is known as " The festival of lights". The festival lasts for 5 days and is the time of lights and sequins decoration, fancy sweets and juicy fruits. The 1st day is known as the Kag Tihar where the crows are worshipped. 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th is known as Kukur Tihar where dogs are worshipped, Gai Tihar where cows are worshipped as the representative of god Laxmi, Govardan tihar and Mha Puja where Newar's worship own self for good fortune throughout the coming year and lastly the Bhai Tika or Brother's Day where every sister worships her brothers and prays to Yama, the god of Death, for their brothers' progress, prosperity and longevity respectively. On the Bhai tika or Brother's Day, sisters' put multi-coloured Tika on the brother's forehead and garlands them with flowers. The brothers are offered many delicacies including sweets, fruits etc. as well as her blessings where as the brothers then in turn give Tika to their sisters after which gifts are also exchanged.

Mangsir (November - December)

Bala Chaturdashi
The festival Bala Chaturdashi marks the end of a corpse-snatching demon, Balasur, and ensures peace for the soul deceased in the past. At the sunrise of the Bala Chaturdashi, everyone makes his or her way to the holy Bagmati River to cleanse. The festival was installed to appease the restless soul of those whose bodies could not be properly cremated.

Magh (January - February)

Swasthani Puja
In this festival, the Swasthani scripture is read every evening for a month. Worshipping Swasthani will bring together parted relations, remove curses, and result in limitless gifts. Goddess Swasthani is the ultimate gift grantor; if insulted, she can make life miserable. By worshipping Swasthani, Parbati attained Lord Shiva as her husband.

Falgun (February - March)

Maha Shiva Ratri
This festival, taking place at Pashupatinath temple is dedicated to the god Shiva, the God of Destruction. On the day, one will find almost impossible to visit the Pashupati temple which remains jammed literally! The day is observed by visiting Pashupati temple, drinking and dancing. Sadhus - the replica of Lord Shiva enjoy the day by smoking cigars and sweets. This is the grandest and most prominent among the numerous festivals, which is celebrated in the honor of Lord Shiva. On this day, people offer rice, vermilion, fruits, flowers and coins and priests in turn give back a small portion of Chandan Tika (made from Sandalwood), which is considered a gift from Lord Shiva, and a sign of his blessing. Many of them undergo one or more days of fasting.

Lohsar is the festival of Sherpas and Tibetans, who welcome the near year by celebrating this festival in which one can see feats, family visits, songs and dance in monasteries and colourful prayer flags decorating streets and rooftops and the colours seem especially brilliant at the Bouddhanath and Swayambhunath stupas. Crowds of celebrants at this place bring in the New Year by throwing tsampa (roasted barley flour) into the air.

Chaitra (March - April)

White Machendranath Jatra
The goddess White Machendranath is also known as the Janma -Dyo, the Buddhist deity of compassion. The main feature of this festival is a weeklong chariot procession of Seto (white) Machchhendranath. The procession starts at Durbar Marg and winds through the market squares to end at Lagan, to the southern end of the city where the shrine of the mother of this deity is located.

Ghode Jatra
One of the great festivals of Nepalese, Ghode Jatra, takes place to satisfy the demon who is believed to be buried under the soil of Tundikhel. In Kathmandu, The festival is celebrated as a purely stunt show such as jumping, motor cycling, horse riding, gymnastics and sky diving which is performed by the Nepalese Army. In Patan version of the Ghode Jatra festival, a horse is made to drink liquor and the townspeople chase the intoxicated animal through the city streets amidst much shouting and clapping. There is an official holiday for this day in Kathmandu Valley.

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