A special moment or event celebrated by the society regarding their different rituals and beliefs. And as we know Nepal has diversified cultures with various traditional values that offer marvelous moments through festivals. Nepal consists large number of Indian immigrants so, different festivals are celebrated by majority of Madhesis. Talking about various religions of Nepal many people like: Hindu, Buddhist, Kirat, Muslim, Christian are living here with their own different identity following their own different traditions, rituals, norms and festivals. However the country is interweaving of Hindu, Buddhism and other beliefs, country represents the Hindu kingdom along with Buddhism reliefs.
What are the main festivals celebrated in Nepal?
Though the country is full of many colorful festivals, there are 10 major festivals like: Dasain/tihar, Buddha Jayanti, Gai Jatra, Janai Purnima, Teej, Chhat, Fagun Purnima, Maghe Sakrati, Indra Jatra and Mahashivratri celebrated Nepal which reflects their unique ethnic backgrounds.
Dasain is the most favorable festival celebrated by Nepalese people in the whole year for about 15 days including different rituals in each day, every day refers their own histories and importance. Bamboo swings, family gathering and religious facts are the most important aspects for verifying this festival. The festival is mainly celebrated in the month of September or October as a victory of goddess Durga over the evil Mahisashur. Thus, to celebrate such ancient mythology Dasain festival is celebrated every year. Tihar also known as Deepawali is a colorful festival of lights. Tihar is mainly celebrated for 5 days including Kaag Tihar, Kukur Tihar, Gai Tihar/Laxmi Puj, Goverdhan Puja and the last Bhaitika, on which sisters worship their brothers and thanks them for protection provided. Tihar being the second biggest festival in Nepal has its great importance and beliefs, not only for human and god but also for animals like cow, crow and dog. The fascinating arrangements of lights throughout the city make the city looking like a sparkling diamond.
- Buddha Jayanti:
Lord Buddha also known as the “Light of Asia” was born in 543 B.C in Kapilvastu, Lumbini, Nepal and this day is known by “Buddha Jayanti”. Buddha Jayanti has its own history; the day is celebrated by all the Nepalese even by the Hindus as lord Buddha is also considered as one of the main incarnations of lord Vishnu. Lumbini, the place where Lord Buddha was born is visited by many foreigners on this day. Thus, to remember his virtues, teachings and peaceful knowledge Buddha Jayanti is celebrated every year. Generally, Buddha Jayanti is celebrated in the month of May or June according to Gregorian calendar.
- Gai Jatra:
Gai Jatra also known as the “festival of cow” is one of the popular festivals in Nepal, mainly celebrated to remove the grief of losing family members. It is mainly celebrated in Kathmandu valley by the Newar community by marching cows on the streets of city and praying for the safety of lost ones. Falling in the month of August or September, “Gai Jatra” is a carnival of singing and dancing on the streets of city.
- Janai Purnima:
Janai Purnima falls in the month of Shrawan, and also known as “Rakshya Bandhan”, represents the bond of purity and security. Janai Purnima is known as a sacred thread festival celebrated by all Hindus, especially by Brahmins and Chettris to perform their annual change of “Janai”, a sacred thread on their west. Whereas, Rakshya Bandhan is a ritual protective thread offered by sisters to brothers for providing them lifelong protection. Janai Purnima is also celebrated as Kwati Purnima where Kwati refers to the soup of different beans considered as the main menu of this day.
One of the monsoon festivals, celebrated by Hindu women all across the world for long life of their husband and purification of body or soul, Teej is also dedicated to goddess” Parvati” for her union to Lord Shiva. In Nepal, Nepalese women celebrate Teej by having fast and gathering at a holy place in their finest red outfits with singing and dancing in their devotional songs. Teej is also known as Hari Talika Teej which falls under the month of Shrawan.
In the context of Nepal, Chhath is celebrated by Mithila region of Terai. During the festival, Sun and his wife are worshiped by the Hindu followers for bestowing life on earth. Hindu followers believe that God is the ultimate source of life-force & energy. According to the ritual they worship both sunset and sunrise; the setting sun, thus meaning death and sunrise meaning rebirth. And to admire his power they worship Lord Surya (Sun) in exchange of prosperity, well-being and progress. Usually women are the prime worshippers, but men also take part. Also the culture says that worshiping Sun helps eradicate diseases like leprosy and helps family members to live long and prosper life. Chhath festival is celebrated for four days from Kartik Shukala Chaturthi to Kartik Shukala Saptami. In English Calendar they fall in month of October or November.
- Fagun Purnima:
The most famous and traditional festival of colors celebrated by Hindus all over the world, Fagun Purnima is also known as Holy. Falling in the month of Shrawan, indicating the beginning of spring season is celebrated at the end of Falgun. Hindus celebrate holy with playing water and colors, hugging each other, eating tasty food and many more. Being one of the important festivals in Hindu religions, it provides lots of joy and happiness to the people. Behind celebrating this great festival, it includes its own history.
- Maha Shivratri:
In the beautiful land of Festivals, Nepal happens to celebrate Maha Shivaratri (the Great Night of Lord Shiva) and it is the festival of Lord Shiva who is known for his victory over Halahal; evil monster who tried to destroy the universe (according to Hindu Tale). Maha Shivaratri is the festival celebrated in the honor of Lord Shiva or Bholenath, who is one of the most respected Deities of Hindu Religion. According to Hindu Lunar Calendar, this festival falls on the night of Falgun Chaturdasi. It is believed that Lingodbhav Murti (Statue of Shiva) got self-originated at midnight of Shivaratri and hence it is also celebrated as the Birth-night of Lord Shiva. In Nepal Shivaratri is celebrated by Hindu, going to the designated temple. Many Hindus wait in a long queue just to get glimpses of Lord Shiva, which is kept inside Pashupatinath Temple. It is also the only day where common people are allowed to enter the main location.
- Maghe Sakrati
One of the major festivals celebrated as harvest festival, mostly in Madhesh and Tharuhat region of Nepal falls on 14th January or on the first of Magh according to Bikram Sambat calendar is also known as Maghi (New year of Tharu community in Nepal). According to Hindu astrology Makar Sakranti is considered as festival of Sun God where Sun God is the symbol of power, divinity and wisdom. People take a holy bath called as “Makar Snan” in holy rivers and worship Ajima Mata and Rato Macchendranath after the bath. As the festival is considered as New Year for Tharu community, it consist more importance for them. Thus, they celebrate this festival through grand feasting and family gathering.
- Indra Jatra
One of the biggest street festivals in Kathmandu in the honor of Lord Vishnu and Bhairav is celebrated for 8 days. It falls on September which means Bhadra according to Nepalese Bikram Sambat calendar. Generally, it begins every year from the day of Bhadra Dwadasi to Ashwin Krishna Chaturdasi. The main venue for this festival is in Kathmandu valley as according to Hindu beliefs Indra’s mother needed parijat, a flower for her ritual activities, for which Indra came to the earth to fetch the flowers, but suddenly recognized by the people and got caught and tied with rope. As a result the statue is still worshipped in Maru Tole, Kathmandu. Indra Jatra one of the very interesting street festivals also known as “Yenya” in which “Ye” means Kathmandu and “Ya” means celebrations, together it means “celebration inside Kathmandu valley”. Another event Kumari Jatra is also celebrated on the same day, which means chariot festival of kumari.
- Lhosars in Nepal:
Lhosar is the major festival for people following Tibetan and Buddhism culture like: Tamang, Gurung, and Sherpa etc. as they consider the day as New Year according to Tibetan calendar. The word defines itself as “Lho” means year and “Sar” refers new. Generally we can observe the events in monasteries like: Shwayambhunath and Boudhanath. They celebrate the festival by singing and dancing, wearing own different cultural outfits in their Tibetan unison. There are main three types of lhosars like: Tola Lhosar, Sonam Lhosar and Gyalpo Lhosar, having their own ways of celebrations.
- Sarawati Puja:
Saraswati, one of the Hindu goddesses, worshipped by Hindu pilgrimages all over the world defines the symbol of learning, music, art, wisdom and creativity. The word Saraswati is a combination of two words “Sara” which means “essence” and “swa” which means “one self” and together it refers “essence of one self”. As the puja is done on Panchami it is also known as Shree Panchami. Saraswati Puja falls on the month of January or February and students worship the goddess Saraswati with more diligence and respect. Along with this, this day is taken as very auspicious for new ventures and implementation.
- Krishna Janmastami:
Krishna Janmastami refers to the annual birthday celebration of Lord Krishna, also known as the 8th reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, falls on August or September every year. It is celebrated on the eighth day of dark half on the month of Bhadra according to Nepalese Bikram Sambat calendar. Lord Krishna plays very important role in the holy battle of Mahabharat, and also known by many names like: Hari, Shyam, Gopal, Nanda Lala etc. on this day many devotees worship Lord Krishna in ancient Krishna mandir like: ancient Krishna Mandir of Patan Durbar Square and sing ancient hymns.
Having such diverse cultures following this wonderful festival with their own different traditions and rituals makes the moments more pleasures in Nepal. Different festivals define their own different religious origins and religious significance. So, don’t let the chance go out of exploring such marvelous festivals with their legend histories and importance’s.