Nepal is a land of unique festival festivities. For the Nepalese, festival festivities are not merely the annual spectacles, but also are a living part of their rich cultural heritage. Festival festivities effectively bind together the Nepalese people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Most Nepalese festival festivities are related to different Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses. Below is the list of seven topmost festival festivities of Nepal.
1. Dashain and Tihar, the most popular festivals in Nepal, are based on religion. Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Durga’s victory over evil Mahisashur, has symbolic meaning deeply rooted in Nepalese society. Make a Nepal Temples & Pagodas Tour and see how Nepalese throb with the pulsating colors of the greatest festival of Nepal. While traversing through different parts of Nepal or just making a Kathmandu Tour, find out the true essence of Dashain in Nepal. Explore how Ghatasthapana makes the beginning of Navratri and leads to end of the great festival at Vijaya Dashami. People of Hindu faith received Tika, Jamara and blessings from elders amid family gatherings and engaged in celebration and merrymaking. As this festival is known for family gatherings, people return from all parts of the world, as well as different parts of the country, to celebrate Dashain. Apart from the religious practices, Dashain is also marked by merrymaking, gambling and excessive consumption of food and liquor. Nepalese living abroad also celebrate the festival passionately, as it provides them a rare opportunity to gather at one place and exchange greetings. Likewise, Tihar, a celebration of lights and color dedicated to Goddess Laxmi, too unfolds social joy throughout the nation. Thus, during your trip to Nepal, explore how Dashain and Tihar significantly reside into the social, cultural and religious psyche of Nepalese people.
2. Gai Jatra, one of the topmost festival festivities of Nepal, is especially celebrated in Kathmandu to commemorate the loss of family members by going around the town with masked faces and idols of cows. Even though Gai Jatra has presence throughout the country, it has most strongholds in the Newari community of Kathmandu valley. This festival has its roots in the belief that the god of death, Yamaraj, must be feared and hence worshiped. The ‘festival of cows’ is celebrated with people dressed in costumes taking out colorful parades around the city in memory of the family members who have died. According to religious scriptures, ‘gai’ (cow) helps departed souls to cross the cosmic ocean in their journey into the after-world. There is also a comical aspect to the festival. Humorous and satirical street shows of the people in power are performed in major towns of the country. In this festival, irregularities of the society are exposed through satirical means.
3. Fagun Purnima, allegedly named after the mythical demons Holika, is a day when the feast of colors is celebrated. Holi, the week-long ancient festival, has growing popularity among Nepalese even today and it is amazingly celebrated throughout the nation. The festival of Holi falls on late February or on early March. Phagu is another name for Holi where Phagu means the sacred red powder and Pune is the full moon day, on which the festival ends. People can be seen wandering through the streets either on foot or on some vehicle, with a variety of colors smeared over them. Families and friends get together and celebrate the occasion with a lot of merry making. This spring time celebration is also an outburst of youthful exuberance in which throwing colors and water balloons (Lolas) on passer- by is acceptable.
4. Mahashivaratri, one of great festivities of religious devotion in Nepal, is dedicated to the Lord Shiva which falls in February and March. The festival has been accorded lot of significance in Hindu mythology. Thousands and thousands of visitors make their pilgrimage visit in Kathmandu on this day to perform the ritual worship of Shivratri with care and devotion. They observe day and night fast and give sacred bath to Shiva Linga with honey, milk, water etc. Hindus consider it extremely auspicious to worship Lord Shiva on a Shivaratri as it is believed that worship of Lord Shiva with devotion and sincerity absolves a devotee of past sins. The devotee is also liberated from the cycle of birth and death and attains salvation. Besides, Mahashivratri is also considered to be an extremely significant festival by women. Married and unmarried women observe fast and perform Shiva Puja with sincerity to appease Goddess Parvati who is also regarded as ‘Gaura’ – one who bestows marital bliss and long and prosperous married life. Unmarried women also pray for a husband like Lord Shiva who is regarded as the ideal husband.
5. Janai Purnim, one of the topmost sacred festivities in Nepal, keeps the sacred meaning in Hindu community of Nepal. On this same day Rakshya Bandhan is also celebrated where every Hindu ties a sacred thread. Janai Purnima maintains the holy significance where as Rakshya Bandhan makes stronger the love and respect in between and among sisters and brothers. One this sacred day if you happen to be in Nepal, think for Langtang, Gosainkunda & Helambu Trek to make a holy bath on the sacred Gosaikunda lake. Gosaikunda, a glacier lake, is the most famous one with several others glacier lakes adjoining it. Gosainkunda lies to the north-west of Helambu beyond a 4.602-meters high pass. The pilgrims pass through varied landscapes ranging from evergreen forest, cascading waterfalls and turbulent streams to alpine grass and barren mountainsides. This will be a journey with numerous highlights, stunning views of Ganesh Himal, Manaslu and Annapurna massif as far as you can see.
6. Haritalika Teej, one of the great merriments of Nepal, is a celebration of fasting in which women pray for marital bliss, well being of their spouse and children and purification of their own body and soul. The festival is also known as festival of Solah Shringar. Women in Nepal celebrate the festival of Haritalika Teej with immense fervor and enthusiasm. Married ladies come back to their parents’ home to celebrate the festival. Hartalika Teej is the time to adorn oneself with new clothes and jewelry. Applying mehndi on hands and feet is a unique feature of Haritalika Teej celebrations. Women do their best to look beautiful at the time of Haritalika Teej. Haritalika Teej Pooja holds a very significant place in the life of women’s as this Pooja is done for the well being of the husbands. Hartalika Teej festival goes on for three days. The festival after all is not just about seeking blessings for husband. It is also about strengthening the bond between a couple, family and women. Nowadays, the festival is connoted with women’s liberation moment in Nepal as well.
7. Indrajatra, one of the biggest festival festivities of Nepal, is devoted to the rain-god, Lord Indra, and is marked for eight days by showing different classical dancing, singing, masks dance and other joyous cultural shows. The festival is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm in the three districts of the Kathmandu Valley. Both Hindus and Buddhists unite to celebrate the festival of Indrajatra. Poles, known in Newari language as Yambodho, were erected in different places of the district as the festival begins. Starting with the festival, the Dasha Avataras (the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu) is performed in front of the Kumari House which is a combination of storytelling, classical singing and dancing. From this day onwards, the masks of Bhairava are kept in different areas for display during the 8-day festival time. The largest mask of Sweta Bhairava can be observed at Durbar Square an Akash Bhairava at Indra Chowk.