Nepal is a land of Festivals.
Due to nepal's vast diversity of people, rich culture
festivals are celebrate throught the year. For the Nepalese, festivals are not merely the annual spectacles, but also are a living part of their rich cultural heritage. Festivals effectively bind together the Nepalese people of diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs into one nation. Most Nepalese festivals are related to different Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses and they are celebrated on such days consecrated for them by religion and tradition.
Others are observed in honor of personal relatives such as festivals of Matatirtha and Gaijatra. Yet other are held to herald the different seasons or to mark the beginning or end of agricultural cycle. 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. Here we have listed few of the major festivals celebrate in Nepal.
[ Vijaya Dashami ] [ Tihar ] [New Year Day ] [ Red Machchhindranath Festival ] [ Buddha Jayanti ] [ Main Rimdu ] [ Ghantakarna ] [ Gai Jatra ] [ Krishnaashtami ] [ Teej ] [ Indra Jatra ] [ Seto Machhendranath ] [ Maha Shivatri ]
7th Oct till 14th October 2002: It is truly the national festival of Nepal. Every Nepali is stirred by the prospects of joy that this festival is supposed to bring with it. The change of mood is also induced psychologically by the turn of autumn season after a long spell of monsoon, introducing clear and brilliant days, an azure blue sky and a green carpet of fields, the climate is also just ideal at this time, it is neither too cold nor too warm. The Nepalese cherish their Dashain as time for eating well and dressing well. Each house sets up an shrine to worship the Goddess at this time. Barley seeds are planted on the first day in every household and nurtured for nine days. During this period Goddess Durga Bhawani is worshipped and offered a lot of blood sacrifices. Buffaloes, goats, chickens and ducks are killed by the thousands at the temples at military posts and in every household. One of the main centre that witnesses the animal sacrifice in a Large scale at this time is the Hanuman Dhoka palace on the ninth. On the concluding day of the festival called the Tika, the elders of the family give Tika to their junior members and to other relatives who may also come to seek their blessings. The fresh shoots of the barley's are also given. Family feasting and feting of guests is a common practice at this time.
30 October 2002: It lasts for five days and is marked by worship to different animals such as crow, the dog and the cow, five various days. The most important day is Laxmi puja. The most endearing sight of this festival is presented by the illumination of the entire town with rows of tiny flickering lamps on Laxmi puja. In the evening of this day, the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi is worshipped at every household and it is on her welcome that myriad of lamps are burnt. On the fifth day sister show their affection towards their brothers with puja and feed them with delectable food. They pray for their brothers long life to Yama, the Hindu God of death.
Nepal New Years Day
The Nepalese follow their own calendar system known as the Bikram Era or Bikram Sambat . This festival celebrates the first day of the first month of the New Year and is observed as an official holiday. In Bhaktapur, fifteen kilometers from Katmandu, the new year celebrations take on added importance as the " Festival of Bisket " during a tall wooden post is erected in one of the main squares. This festival commemorates the great battle of Mahabharata , with the wooden post symbolizing victory.
After two days, images of god Bhairab and his female counterpart Bhadra are enshrined in two large chariots and pulled through crowds of cheering onlookers. When the chariot reaches a sloping open square, there is a tug-of-war between the inhabitants of the upper and lower parts of the town. Winners are considered to be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. The festival concludes with several days of dancing and worship. Thimi, another ancient town of the Valley, also celebrates the New Year with special festivities.
Red Machchhindranath Festival
This festival takes place in Patan. During the celebrations the towering chariot of Lord Machchhendranath is pulled by ropes through the narrow streets of the city followed by a large crowd of worshippers. In front of the chariot, a small crowd of musicians and soldiers add even more excitement to the occasion. Over a period of several weeks, the chariot is slowly hauled to Jawalakhel where tens of thousands of devotees burn oil lamps and keep an all-night-vigil. During this chariot festival the " Bhoto " or sacred waistcoat, itself the subject of many legends is displayed from the chariot as all the onlookers strain to catch a glimpse of the lucky sight. A final ritual is then conducted to mark Lord Machchhendranath's departure for one year.
Buddha Jayanti is a great day for the Nepalese. This day which falls on the full moon of the month of Baisakh is celebrated to commemorate the birth, attainment of knowledge, and the death of Lord Buddha the founder preacher of Buddhism, more than 2500 years ago. It is a thrice-blessed day. It is the day when he attained Nirvana (salvation). Prayers are sung and worship is offered by the Buddhist in leading Buddhist shrines throughout the country. At Swayambhunath temple for example, devout Buddhists gather to chant prayers and burn butter lamps. The next morning, a small shrines are visited and worshipped. Parading groups walk through the streets of Katmandu and Patan while special flags fly from all Buddhist households.
This typical Sherpa festival is celebrated exclusively in the Lamaist monasteries of the Mt. Everest region. It is held in the month of May, mostly on full moon day at the Thame monastery in he Khumbu region, near Namche Bazaar at an altitude of 13,123feet (4000m). A very spectacular masked dance drama played for three full days is the main outdoor highlight of the festival.
Taking place towards the end of the Nepalese month of Sravan, this festivals celebrates the exorcism of a mythical demon, Ghantakarna , who, according to legend, was greatly feared throughout the Katmandu Valley. The festival is celebrated by acting out the legendary drama in the streets. To begin with, children of each Katmandu Neighborhood collect money from passersby which is then used to make an effigy of the demon god. While this effigy remains in the center of a rough tent-like structure erected from bamboo poles, one man impersonates Ghantakarna by smearing himself with white paint and roaming the local area collecting donations in a begging bowl. Surrounded by the crowds of small children, the group then returns to the effigy and proceeds to take it to the river for burning, thus marking the victory of the local inhabitants over the demon god.
According to tradition dating back since time immemorial, every family who has lost one relative during the past year must participate in a procession through, the streets of Katmandu leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable then a young boy dressed up as a cow is considered to be a fair substitute. It is believed that the symbol of a cow, revered as a holy animal by all devout Hindus, will assist the deceased relative's heavenward journey. Later in the Afternoon, nearly everyone takes part in another age-old tradition in which all participants dress up and wear masks; jokes, mockery and humor of every kind become the order of the day until the late evening.
Krishnashtami or the birthday of Lord Krishna, is celebrated in commemoration of the hero of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata . On this day, worshippers carry ornate and decorated idols and pictures of Lord Krishna through the streets, often with bands of musicians following or preceding the procession. In Patan, thousands of devout flock to Krishna temple to worship and receive blessings.
It is a well known fact that Hinduism and Buddhism are the two major religions of Nepal, each having it's own rules and rituals. However, like most festivals of Nepal, both Hindus and Buddhist unite to celebrate the festival of Indra Jatra. This festival is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists with great enthusiasm. It is also believed that Indra Jatra is a festival of classical dances. It is on this very day when one is able to observe numerous varieties of traditional dances. The festival is named after Lord Indra who is known as the god of rain and also as the king of heaven.
The festival of Indra Jatra continues for eight days with much rejoicing, singing, dancing and feasting. People from all over Nepal, mostly those who live within the Kathmandu Valley, gather at the Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu. The first day of the festival is viewed by a large number of people. On that day, a long wooden pole is erected in front of the ancient Royal Palace at Hanuman Dhoka, in order to propitiate Lord Indra, the"god of rain". Classical dancers also assemble at the spot, wearing different kinds of traditional masks and costumes and dancing around the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka to celebrate Indra's visit.
On the third day of the festival of Indra Jatra, the living goddess Kumari is taken out in a procession in a chariot. "Kumari", the "living goddess", is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess "Taleju". Chariots of Kumari, Ganesha and Bhairav are taken around the city for three days. According to Hindu beliefs Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati who has a head of an elephant and Bhairav is another form of Lord Shiva himself
The king of Nepal, the only Hindu king in the world, also pays homage to the Kumari during this period. The festival's many interesting dances, including the Procession of Living Goddess-Mahakali, Mahalaxmi and Dasha Avatara masked dances are staged in Kathmandu Durbar Square, near the Kumari Temple. The "Dasha Avatara" refers to the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu who is one of the Hindu's Holy trinity. The excitement of the festival of Indra Jatra comes to an end on the last evening of the festival when the long wooden pole erected on the first day is lowered with religious ceremonies, animal sacrifices and ritual gestures.
"Teej" is the fasting festival for women. It takes place in August or early September. The festival is a three-day long celebration that combines sumptuous feasts as well as rigid fasting. Through this religious fasting, hindu women pray for marital bliss, well being of their spouse and children and purification of their own body and soul.
Traditionally, the ritual of Teej is obligatory for all Hindu married women and girls who have reached puberty. Exception is made for the ones who are ill or physically unfit. In such circumstances a priest performs the rites. According to the holy books, the Goddess Parbati fasted and prayed fervently for the great Lord Shiva to become her spouse. Touched by her devotion, he took her for his wife. Goddess Parbati, in gratitude sent her emissary to preach and disseminate this religious fasting among mortal women, promising prosperity and longevity with their family. Thus was born the festival of Teej.
Held annually, the main feature of this festival is a weeklong chariot procession of Seto Machhendranath Katmandu. A long chariot-decorated with flowers and greenery, with the replica of the main deity, is taken out in procession through the main throughfares of old Katmandu.
Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world and thus the land of Lord Shiva, Lord of all Lords, for here you can feel his presence everywhere. Even in the sacred texts of the Hindus it has been stated that Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas is the abode of Lord Shiva or Mahadeva as he is also known. Shiva the Destroyer of Evil is among the most praised and worshipped of all the gods in the Hindu religion. Hindus all over the world know him through different names and forms. The country has thousands of idols and monuments, which glorify his name, the most common one being the Shiva Linga or the phallus of Shiva that represents him. For it is the Shiva linga that Hindus regard as the symbol of creation, the beginning of everything.
Shiva Ratri is the night of Lord Shiva when He himself was created by His own Divine Grace and Hindus all over the world celebrate this day with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. Shiva Ratri literally means ' the night consecrated to Shiva'. This auspicious festival falls on the fourteenth day of the waning moon in the month of Falgun, (February - March in the Gregorian calendar ). The temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu which is considered as one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus, glorifying Lord Shiva, thus receives more than 100,000 worshippers during the festival of Shiva Ratri. These worshippers come from far and wide to pay their respects and homage to Mahadev on his sacred day.
Pashupatinath temple is located at the eastern part of the Kathmandu valley on the banks of the holy river Bagmati. Pashupatinath, which literally means ‘the Lord of animals', is one of the many forms of the Lord. He is the guardian deity, protector of our Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, thus Shiva Ratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal. Pilgrims from all over Nepal as Pashupatinath Temple well as India come to Pashupatinath to worship and pray to the deity on his birthday and wash away all the sins committed by them. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple and tourists are only permitted to observe the festival from across the Bagmati river.
Shiva Ratri is a much anticipated festival by all Hindus. Pilgrims and yogis (holy men), from all over Southeast Asia come to Kathmandu weeks before the festival. On this holy day people fast through out the day. At dawn, worshippers take a holy bath or dip in the river and go to the temple to worship.
One of the interesting aspects of Shiva Ratri is that on this day devotees and non-devotees alike freely indulge in smoking intoxicating substances such as marijuana and bhang for it is the only day in the annual calendar when marijuana is legal. Many people take these intoxicants in the belief that it pleases Lord Shiva for he too is said to be fond of it. Thus marijuana is taken as prasad, holy food blessed by the Gods and one can see eager tourists and faithful Nepalese flocking around the temple complex of the Ram Janaki Mandir across the Bagmati river opposite to the main temple complex of Pashupatinath lingering around sadhus and babas in the hope for some prasad from them.
The Puran, one of the many holy texts of the Hindus, tells us that if you worship Lord Shiva on this day all your sins will be forgiven. Giving an examle the puran talks about an event that occurred ages before about a hunter from Benares. This man worshipped Lord Shiva unknowingly on Shiva Ratri and he was forgiven for all his sins.
On Shiva Ratri the temple of Pashupatinath is filled with worshippers. Devotees are not distinguished as poor or rich but treated equally for Lord Shiva treats us all equally. Even the King of Nepal and the royal family pay homage to the Pashupatunath on this day along with the thousands that gather to celebrate the festival. Thus the festival of Shiva Ratri shows the devotion and faith Nepalese have towards the Hindu religion.