Nepal Festivals & Events

Festivals of Nepal

It is said about Nepal that every other structure is a holy shrine and every other day a festival. Well, if the number of annual festivals, both religious and national, is any indication, the saying couldn't be more true. Festivals are an essential part of Nepalese life that garner tremendous local participation. Festivals also offer visitors a valuable opportunity not only for having fun but gaining insight into various aspects of Nepalese culture. The religious festivals follow the lunar calendar, while national festivals have fixed dates. Wherever or whenever you arrive in Nepal, you can be pretty sure of being at the right time for one or more special events. Some of the major and interesting festivals are presented below.

Sweta Machhendranalh Snan (January)

Sweta (white) Machhendranalh enjoys a week-long festival in he is bathed, oiled, perfumed, and painted. The Goddess Kumari visits him at his elaborate temple near Asan Tol. If he is pleased by the music, offerings, and attentions of his devotees, the people of the Valley can look forward to satisfactory rainfall in the planting season.

Swasthani (January -February)
Goddess Swasthani's three eyes burn like the sun. She is the ultimate gift grantor; if insulted, she can make life miserable. By worshipping Swasthani's, Parbati attained Lord Shiva as her husband. In the worship rites of Goddess Swasthani's, outlined by Parbati, the Swasthani's scripture is read every evening for a month. Worshipping Swasthani's will bring together parted relations, remove curses, and result in limitless gifts.

Maghe Sankranti (January)
In the holy month of Magh the sun enters the southern hemisphere, and the days begin to grow longer and warmer. Lord Vishnu the Preserver is thanked for his efforts. On Maghe Sankranti (the first day of Magh) people take an early morning bath in a holy river, visit the shrines of Vishnu, and present flowers, incense and food to him. They read the Bhagwad Gita, also known as The Song of the Gods, rub mustard oil over their bodies, and enjoy feasts of rice cooked with lentils, yams or taruls - a must - and laddu, sweets made of sesame and a sugarcane paste.

Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja (January)
Basanta, or spring, ushers in the loveliest time of the year. Crowds gather at Kathmandu's Durbar Square while His Majesty the King and other dignitaries welcome the season as a band plays the traditional song of spring. A different celebration occurs at Swayambhu and at the Nil Barahi shrine near Lazimpat. Saraswati, the goddess of learning, arts and crafts is worshiped at her temples. Artists, musicians, teachers, and students bring flowers, unbroken rice, and other gifts to please her.

Maha Shivaratri (February)
Lord Shiva is one of Nepal's most popular gods. During Maha Shivaratri, his "Great Night", followers throughout the Indian sub-continent crowd the Pashupati temple to worship him. On this occasion "there is no space even for a sesame seed". Colorful sadhus, the wandering sages who emulate Shiva, rub ashes over their bodies, give lectures to disciples, meditate, or practice yoga. Devotees pray to Shiva's image inside the temple at midnight and may queue for up to six hours to look at the image. Bonfires are lit, neighbors and friends share food, and devotees enjoy two days and a night of music, song, and dance throughout the Pashupati complex and in the streets. Losar (February)
Sherpas and Tibetans welcome their New Year with feasts, family visits and dancing. Families don their finest clothes and jewelry and exchange gifts. Buddhist monks offer prayers for good health and prosperity, and perform dances at the monasteries. Colorful prayer flags decorate streets and rooftops; the colors seem especially brilliant at the Bouddha and Swayambhu stupas. Crowds of celebrants at Bouddha bring in the New Year by throwing tsampa (roasted barley flour) into the air.

Holi or Fagu Purnima (March)
Fagu Purnima is one of the most colorful and playful festivals of Nepal. The chir pole, decorated with colorful flags and erected on the first day of Fagu at Kathmandu's Durbar Square, is a formal announcement to all: hide your good clothes, for throughout the week you may be splashed with colored powder and water balloons. The last day is the wildest: youths covered with red vermillion powder roam the streets as inviting targets.

Chaitra Dasain, March - April.
Red vermillion powder, family blessings, and goat and duck sacrifices are essential to praise the victory of Ram, hero of the epic Ramayana, over the evil king Rawan. Mother Goddess Durga, the source of all power, must be supplicated too, for her powers helped Ram achieve his victory.

Ghode Jatra (April)
Visitors are often amazed by the fine horses of the Nepalese army, and Ghode Jatra is a time for the most graceful of these animals to perform before the public eye. Legends relate that this ''horse festival" was begun after the Kathmandu people buried a demon under the soil of Tundikhel showgrounds. They say that he may rise again and cause worry to the world if he is not trampled on by horses each year. So every spring, this victory over evil is celebrated in the Valley by organizing palanquin processions and a grand display of show jumping, motorcycling feats, and gymnastics. Their Majesties the King and Queen, the Living Goddess Kumari, and thousands of people from all over the country are a part of the jatra audience.

Bisket Jatra (April)
During this important festival, the old kingdom of Bhaktapur and its neighboring areas replay a drama passed on over the centuries. Images of wrathful and somewhat demonic deities are placed on tottering chariots. They are offered blood sacrifices, flowers, and coins. Men brimming with youthful vigor and rice beer drag the chariots across brick-paved streets of the town, and wherever these raths stop, lamps are lit and devotees overflow into the surrounding alleys. Other gods and goddesses, too, are put on palanquins and carried around so that they may see the sights. At Bode village, there is a tongue-boring ceremony in which the dedicated may reserve a place in heaven.

Red Machhendranath Jatra (May)
This festival is the biggest socio-cultural event of Patan. The wheeled chariot of a deity know as Bungdyo or Red Machchhendranath is made at Pulchowk and dragged through the city of Patan in several stages till it reaches the appointed destination (lagankhel). The grand finale of the festival is called the 'Bhoto Dekhaune' or the "showing of a vest". A similar kind of chariot festival to Machchhendranath (white) is also held in Kathmandu city in the month of March-April.

Buddha Jayanti (May)
The ever-benevolent Buddha was born in Nepal, and the religion he preached is the second most popular in the kingdom. On May 6, a full moon day, the Lord's birth, enlightenment, and salvation are applauded throughout the valley with celebrations. Swayambhu and Baudhanath Stupas are prepared for the oncoming festivities several days in advance. Monasteries are cleaned, statues are polished, bright prayer flags waft in the breeze, and monks prepare to dance. On the Jayanti day, people reach the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the many Buddha images there.

Dumji (July)
Dumji is one of the sared ceremonies of the Sherpa community. It is celebrated in the month of July. Dumji is celebrated by the Sherpas in Namche region. The Sherpas of Kathmandu and Helambu regions also participate in dancing on this day.

Gunla (July-August)
The monsoon has arrived, and the fields have been planted. It is time for Kathmandu Valley Buddhists to observe Gunla. The month-long festivities celebrate a ''rains retreat'' initiated twenty-five centuries ago by the Buddha. It is a time for prayer, fasting, meditation and religious music. Worshippers climb past jungles, stone animals, great statues of the Buddha, and begging monkeys to Swayambhu's hilltop where daily prayers begin before dawn. Oil lamps, prayer flags, religious statues, and scroll paintings adorn the monasteries as temple bells chime and powerful scents fill the air. Important Buddhist statues and monasteries are on display at the monasteries, and the teachings of Lord Buddha are remembered as the rains nurture the rice, Nepal

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