Festivals of Nepal
Nepal is a land of festivals, as there are more than 40 different ethnic groups, with their own festivals, celebrating in temples, public places and homes. Nepalese have festivals related to different Hindu and Buddhist God and Goddesses, some are observed in honor of personal relatives such as Gaijatra. Nepalese also celebrate the beginning and the end of agriculture cycle, while some celebrate only within few villages. Festivals like Dashain and Tihar is of national significance, and is celebrated throughout Nepal. For Nepalese, festivals are a living part of rich cultural heritage that brings all the people of diverse culture backgrounds and beliefs in harmony. Listed below are some of the major festivals of Nepal.
Saraswati Puja: On this day people worship Saraswati- the Goddess of learning, by offering unbroken rice, flowers, sweets, fruits and other gifts. Small children are taught to read and write and people write on the stones and slabs with chalks and pencils, so they become wise and knowledgeable. It is also regarded a very auspicious day for marriages, and it is believed that Goddess Saraswati herself blesses the couples.
Maha Shivaratri: Shivaratri-the night of Lord Shiva is one of the major festivals of Nepal, which is dedicated to the Lord of the Lords. The followers of Shiva come to Pashupati temple to worship him. Lord Shiva is also the most worshipped God in Hindu religion, where more than 100,000 Hindu devotees from Southeast Asia and India gather in and around one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus in Kathmandu. Colourful Sadhus (holi man) rub ashes over their bodies, practice yoga, give lectures to disciples and meditate. Celebration continues late into the night with bonfires, music, singing and dancing.
Losar (Tibetan new year): On this day many people visit Swayambhunath and Boudhanath monastery, which are decorated with colourful prayer flags. This is the New Year of the Tibetans and Sherpas of Nepal. It is celebrated with people performing traditional dances and welcome their New Year with feasts and family gatherings.
Holi (Fagu Purnima): It is no doubt one of the colourful and playful festivals of Nepal. It is announced formally after the Chir pole is erected at Kathmandu Durbar square. Chir- a long pole, upper part is wooden frame decorated with strips of colourful cloths, which is believed to carry special power to ward off the evil. People celebrate by splashing water to each other, various colours smeared over them and water ballons thrown, specially young ones from the roof top.
Ghode jatra (Horse Festival): A grand display of horse show, motorcycling feats, show jumping, gymnastics and other exciting sports activities are preformed by the Nepal Army at Tundikhel. A large number of people from all over come to witness this performance. Nepali New Year: The first day of Baisakh (Nepali calendar) begins the New Year, which falls in the second week of April. As it is a national holiday, people celebrate by socializing, having parties, going to picnics and organizing various functions and events.
Buddha’s Birthday (Buddha Jayanti): It falls in the month of May on a full moon night, is widely celebrated in Nepal. People visit Boudhanath and Swayambhunath to pay homage to Lord Buddha, chanting prayers and burning butter lamps. Monasteries are cleaned, statues are polished and colourful prayer flags decorate the vicinity. Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini is also well visited on this day.
Teej: The festival is auspicious for Hindu married woman in Nepal. Women observe fasting and worship Lord Shiva for healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. Women clad in beautiful red saris offer their prayers to Lord Shiva in Pashupatinath. Unmarried women also fast on this day with the hope of finding good husbands. Singing and dancing is the sight almost everywhere in Nepal during Teej festival, which last until late at night.
Indra Jatra: The festival celebrated with great enthusiasm by both Buddhist and Hindus last for eight days in Kathmandu valley. Lord Indra-the God of Rain also known as the King of Heaven has once again blessed the Valley. Eight days of singing, mask dancing and rejoicing, the chariot of Living Goddess (Kumari) is taken through the main streets of Kathmandu with much fanfare. During this time the King also pays homage to Goddess Kumari. Excited performers and spectators engulf the streets of Kathmandu. It is indeed a very popular festival and people enjoy various mask and classical dances staged on the plinth of Narayan temple, just opposite the Kumari temple.
Dashain: Dashain is the most auspicious festival of the year for Nepalese of all cast and creed, throughout Nepal. It is celebrated with great rejoice and Goddess Durga is worshipped as the divine mother Goddess. Many animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing is preformed. Kathmandu skies are filled with colourful kites and the bazaars are crowded for festival shopping. On the day of Dashain, everyone puts on new clothes and receive blessings from family elders, followed by feasting, singing and dancing. Dashain commemorates a great victory of good over evil.