Nepali Festivals

Nepali Festivals:

Shree Panch Prithwi Jayanti (January):
This is the birth anniversary of the great conqueror of Nepal Prithiwi Narayan Shah, the first Shah King of United Nepal. This festival is particularly celebrated around the bronze statue of the great monarch in front of historical Lion Palace ‘Singha Durbar’ in Kathmandu. The people with a big life size photo of the king in a well-decorated chariot starts from Basantapur in the ancient Royal Palace square and ends in front of Lion Palace. The huge numbers of school children’s do attend into the rally.

Magh Sankranti (January)
Magh Sankranti is a first day of the Magh, it is said to be in Hindus legend that bathing in the river on this day will get relief from the sin from their life.  In the Nepalese belief this day marks the division of the winter and Summer Solstice. There is another belief that the sun is believed to be astrological in a good position on this day. It starts units northward Journey in its heavenly course on this day, thus announcing the commencement of the Uttarayana.

Madhav Narayan Mela (January)
Madav Narayan is another name of Hindu god Bishanu. A religious procession of the devotees fasting for a month with a silver statue of Lord Vishnu to Aryaghat, Pashupati & many other Bishanu temples. Many devotee take holy bath in the Bagmati River at the time of the submergence of that statue of Lord Vishnu in the Bagmati.

Sarashowati Puja -Basanta Panchami (January/February)
Sarashowati is a goddess of giving Knowledge & learning, So almost all the students are taking part on this festival. The thousands of people of Kathmandu valley go to a little shrine near Swayambhunath to worship this Goddess. We also believe that Nepalese people bid farewell to the winter season and look forward to welcome the spring season. At Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu official announcement is made indicating the arrival of spring. Astrologically, Shri Panchami is an ideal day for beginning of any things.  

Maha Shivaratri (February/March):
This is the most famous and celebrated festival of Nepal which attracts large crowds from far flung places both in India & Nepal. The festival is consecrated in honour of Shiva. It is observed by bathing and holding of a religious fast. All Shiva shrines become the places of visit for ‘Darshan’, but the greatest attraction of all is held by the temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu. One gets to see many thousands of Hindu devotees coming to visit the temple of Pashupati. Among them are a large number of Sadhus and Naked ascetics. Many people like to keep awake for the whole night keeping vigilance over an oil lamp burnt to please Shiva. Children are seen keeping awake similarly over a bonfire in many localities. In the afternoon an official function is held to celebrate this festival at Tundikhel. The Royal Nepal Army organises a show in which series of gun fire are sounded. The ceremony is witnessed by His Majesty the King.

Lhosar (Tibetan New Year)- February
LHOSAR marks the Happy and Prosperous New Year for all Tibetans (refugees or not) and Bhotia individuals living in Nepal. It is celebrated by the Sherpas, Tamangs, and some Lhasa-Newars comprising the Dhakhwas of Patan and the Tuladhars of Kathmandu as well. The surname of ‘Lama’ applies to both the Tamangs and the Sherpas as a common factor. Thus the overall faith in general practiced by those special-ethnic communities is known as ‘Lamaism.’ It is a high time for feasting, dressing-up, calling on relatives, visiting companions and dancing to the enchantment of some fervent music. The charming occasion signals the unofficial end of the off-season trades and commercial trips too, as it is traditional to be home for Lhosar. It would be disgusting and against the ‘Dharma’ or religion for any of them to miss Lhosar.

Lamas and monks in the ‘gompas’ (Mahayan Buddhist monasteries) perform a week-long Mahankal Puja (worship ceremony) first, an exercise so designed to eliminate all the accumulated defilements of the preceding year. Two days before the new moon from about one’s clock in the afternoon, costumed monks at Swayamvu Stupa (a recognized WORLD HERITAGE SITE) carry out a large idol representing the old year and tote it through the Great Stupa complex and further down around the back to the ‘saddle’ existing between the two knolls of Swayamvu Hill which is sometimes called the Bajra Hill (Dorji Ri) also. There the head Lama whose authentic title goes ‘Rimpoche’ fatherly conducts the rites accompanied by intermittent drumming and horn-blowing by monks all along the ridge. At the conclusion this peculiar idol is set ablaze. The procession returns to the Great Stupa and performs a supplementary rite yet right before the ‘gompa’ namely KARMA-RAJ which virtually ends with the mass hurling of barley-flour known as ‘champaa’.

Happy Holi (February/March)
The ancient Hindu festival of Holi falls on late February or on early March. Allegedly named after the mythical demoness Holika, it is a day when the feast of colors is celebrated. The festival is of a week. However it’s only the last day that is observed by all with colors. 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.

Ghoda Jatra (February/March)
The festival has two sides of its celebration. Its cultural side involves the Newars of Kathmandu, who celebrates it for several days, The idols of the Gods of many localities are taken in a procession in their area in portable chariots. Every households will be feasting at this time. A demon called ‘Gurumapa’ is also propitiated at Tundikhel. The other \aspects of the festival is provided by the function organised by the Royal Nepalese Army at Tundikhel in the afternoon of the main day. Horse race and acrobatic shows are presented at this time in which His Majesty the King will be present. A meeting of Lumari, Bhadrakali, Kankeshori and Bhairab at Asan on the second day of the main celebration is another highlight of the festival.

Seto Machhendranath Jatra (March)
On this day a popular festival held in honour of the white Machendranath, who is actually the Padmapani Lokeswara, whose permanent shrine is situated at Matsyendra Bahal in Kel Tole in the middle of the bazaar in Kathmandu. A huge chariot of wood supported on four large wheels and carrying tall spire covered with green foliage is made ready for receiving the image of the divinity on this occasion and for dragging in the old town. There is such a spontaneous and heavy turnout of the devotees to pay homage to this God, who is also said to be the ‘Embodiment of Compassion’ at this time.

Chaite Dasain /Ram Nawami (April)
This festival is celebrate of Rama, one of the incarnation of Vishnu, a prominent Hindu God. Religious fast is observed and worship is offered to Rama. A special celebration takes place at Janakpur temple of Rama and Janaki on this day, which lies in southern Nepal

Celebrated on 8th April, Gathan-muga holds special significance to Newari community of Nepal. Gathan-muga is also called Gathemangal or Ghantakarna. At the time when Newari community used to rely heavily on agriculture for livelihood, they were very superstitious about evil spirit spelling evilness onto their harvest and so they consulted with Tantric to permanently ward off this fear. People way back then were told to put on iron rings on fingers and hammer iron nails into door lintels to drive away evil spirit. As the time progressed, this practice also gained popularity and finally took the form of a festival named Gathan-muga.

NEW YEAR (April)
According to Nepali Bikram Sambat calendar, Bhaisakh 1st or 14th April is Nepal’s New Year’s Day. National holiday has been declared on this very day. Nepalese organize parties or get together at homes and full heartedly celebrates the day with good food, music and dance. Many make resolutions for coming year

The Nepalese New Year’s Day:
On this day a popular festival takes place in the 3 rd city of Kathmandu valley Bhaktapur, where a gigantic pole installed with two long flags hanged on the top will be laid down (rooted out) in a great pomp and show. This will last for a week, many chariots festivals of Gods and Goddesses will be celebrated with open joys and cheers.

Nepalese Calendar: The calendar question, in Nepal, is a little complex. Indeed, in addition to the Western (Gregorian) calendar, which is merely tolerated, there are four different ‘time computers’.

 a) The official calendar, mandatory in all public acts and correspondence. It is called "Vikram Sambat Era" comes from the name of Vikramaditya, which started on Feb. 23re, 57 B.C. But the year begins in Mid-April.

 b) The Newar community, in Kathmandu Valley in particular, are traditionally and sentimentally attached to their own calendar which is, paradoxically, called ‘Nepal Era’. This Nepal Era started in 879-880 A.D. The year begins on the festival called Tihar that takes place on the new moon night of the month of Kartik (Oct./Nov.).

 c) The third calendar is the ‘Sakya Era’, which began in 77-78 A.D. under King Raja Nanda Deva, a descendant of King Amsuvarma, the founder of the Licchavi dynasty. This new era is said to have been introduced in commemoration of Nanda Deva’s access to the throne.

Red Machhendranath Jatra (April)
This festival is the biggest socio-culture event of Patan. It begins with the chariot journeys of the most widely venerated deity of the Nepal valley, who resides in his twin shrines at Patan and Bungamati. His popular name is Bunga Deo, but non Newars call him also by the name of Red Machhendranath. The wheeled chariot is prepared at Pulchowk and pulled through the town of Patan in several stages until several month later it reaches Jawalakhel for the final celebration of this festival called the Bhoto ekhaune. The two Machhendranath of Patan and Kathmandu form part of same cult of Avalokiteswara in the Mahayan religion.

 Mother’s Day
“Mother’s Day”: This religious festival is known as Matatirtha Aunsi. We see mother’s face on this ritual day. It is a special occasion for greeting and paying respect to all mothers by offering a lot of gifts like fruits, cookies, etc. those who have missed their maternal parents are obliged to take a holy bath at Matatirtha Sthan in fond memory of the departed souls.

Buddha Jayanti (May)
This day which falls on the full moon of the month of Baisakh is celebrated to commemorate the birth attainment of enlightenment and the death of Gautam Buddha, the founder preacher of Buddhism, more that 2500 years ago. Prayers are sung and worship is offered by the Buddhists in leading Buddhist shrines throughout the country including Lumbini in the Rupandehi district, which is the birth place of Buddha. There is a great fare held at Lumbini on this day.

Teechi is a very special festival for Upper Mustang people. It is celebrated on the last week of May and continues for three consecutive days. Legend has it that when evil Man Tam Ru destroyed humankind and brought about enormous natural catastrophe, Doorjee Sonnu came to rescue. Doorjee Sonnu was the incarnation of Lord Buddha. Doorjee Sonnu’s victory over the evil was celebrated by Upper Mustang people as Teechi. On this day Choedhe Monastery organizes festival dances. 

10th August is a religious day when Nepalese worship snake gods, also called the Nagas. Like other festivals, Nag Panchami is also backed up by a tale. In the ancient time Nagas halted rain from pouring over Nepal. The king of that time also happened to be a Tantric and so he used his power to make Nagas let go of rain. The king succeeded in doing so but he also honored the majestic power of Nagas by turning the day of victory into a festive occasion of Nag Panchami. On Nag Panchami, devotees put a picture of Nag high above their doorway and perform puja with necessary puja items. Offerings in the form of food are left in the yards and paddies for snakes.

Gaura Parba is celebrated by far-western Nepali on 13th August. This day is very significant for married women. They worship Shiva and Parvati for the longevity, happiness and prosperity of their husbands and family. Women on this day come together under one roof and share their happiness and sorrow. They enjoy this day singing and dancing.

Janai Purnima (Rakchshya Bandhan) (August)
The full moon of the month of Shrawan, the day when this festival is observed is considered sacred all over Nepal and is celebrated in different manner by various groups of people of Nepal. However, the most widely accepted mode of celebration is that on this day all the twice-born caster take ritual bath and they change their sacred thread. Everyone gets strings of thread on his wrist from the Brahmans as a protective mark for the whole year. This day is also held sacred for bathing in Gosainkunda. One can also see a pageantry of the Jhankris attired in their traditional costume  as they come to bathe at Kumbheshwor at Patan. These Jhankris also visit the temple of Kailinchowk Bhagwati in Dolkhas district where they go to bet for their healing powers as they are the raditional healers of the Nepalese villages.


Gai Jatra (The cow festival) (August)
In this festival teen-aged boys addressed up as cows, parade the streets of the town. This costume springs from the belief that cows help the members of the family who died within that year to travel to heaven smoothly. Some are also dressed up as an ascetic or a fool for achieving the same objective for their dead family members. Groups of mimics improvise short satirical enactment on the current social scenes of the town for the entertainment of the public. The week beginning from Janai Purnima actually unfolds a season of many good religious and cultural activities.

 The Buddhist monasteries open their gates to the visitors to view their bronze sculptures and collection of paintings for a week.At Patan, one observes the festival of Mataya at this time. The festivity of Gai Jatra itself lasts for a week enlivened by the performance of dance and drama in the different localities of the town. The spirit of the old festival is being increasingly adapted by cultural centres, newspaper and magazines to fling humour and satire on the Nepalese Social and Political life.

Krishnaastami (September)
The day is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Krishna, one of the incarnations of Vishnu. Religious fast is observed and Krishna’s temple visited by the devotees on this day. A procession goes around the town displaying the pictures of Lord Krishna, a practice which was started in the recent years by a social organisation called the Sanatan Dharma Sewa Samiti.

FATHER’S DAY(September)
Father’s day, also termed as Gokarna Aunsi, is a special day for Nepali. On 3rd September Nepalese offer their fathers with gifts including sweets, food, fruits, clothes and so on as an expression of love and respect. Fatherless Nepalese visit Gokarna and there they take a bath in the holy river and offer alms of rice, pulses, fruits, coins etc to priest in the name of their fathers. This is believed to help their fathers in heaven live in peace.

Teej (September)
This is a festival for the ladies. On this day the Nepalese women go to Shiva temple in colourful dresses to worship Shiva. In Kathmandu Valley they go to Pashupatinath and then worship Shiva (Hindu God of Destruction) and whatever they wish that will by fulfilled.

Indra Jatra (September)
Like Gai Jatra, this also heralds a week of religious and cultural festivity in Kathmandu. There are several face of this festival. On the night when this festival begins members of the family in which death has taken place within one year, go round the town limits of Kathmandu burning incense and putting lamps along the route. The same morning a tall wooden pole representing the statue of Indra and large wooden masks of Bhairab are put on display in the bazaar. Several groups of religious dance like the Devinach, Bhairava and Bhakku as well as Mahankalinach come into life duringthis week. The week also commences with pulling of chariot of Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari in Kathmandu. On this historical day, King Prithwi Narayan Shah made a victorious march with his troops into the town and ascended the throne of Kantipur the old name for Kathmandu displacing the Malla King Jaya Prakash Malla.

Ghatasthapana – Bada Dashain (Vijaya Dashami) (September – October)
It is truly the national festival of Nepal. Every Nepali is stirred by the prospects of the 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 being too cold nor too warm. The Nepalese cherish their Dashain as time for eating well and dressing well. Each house also sets up a 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 night of the eighth day and morning of 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 are also given. Family feasting and feting of guests is a common practice at this time.

Tihar (October – November)
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 in her welcome that myriad of lamps are burnt. On the fifth day sisters show their affection towards their brothers with a puja and feed them with delectable food. They pray for their brothers long life to Yama, the Hindu God of death.

For one Year after the death, the soul of the dead wanders around awaiting entrance to the under world and it is the inescapable duty of living relatives to provide it with substance, comfort and peace once or twice each year and Bala Chaturdasi is one of them. The relatives pay homage to Pashupatinath and offer grains while taking a round of the temple.

Nepal Sambat is New Year for Newari community in Nepal and is celebrated on 2nd of November. It follows Lunar calendar. Newari community enjoys this day with good food, best clothes, music and dance.

Chhath Parva is a very popular festival in Southeastern part of Nepal. Every year Janaki temple of Janakpur witnesses a grand ceremony on 7th November for Chhath Parva. Devotes take ritual bath from Holy River, worship God Sun with puja items and prays for their safety from skin diseases. At night temples are transformed into absolute beauty with candle and electronic lights.

MANI RIMDU (November)
Mani Rimdu, celebrated in the month of November, is an important festival for Sherpas of the Khumbu in the Everest region. Tengboche monastery organizes a grand ceremony for three days on the occasion of Mani Rimdu. Buddhist monks blow horns to bring in auspiciousness and then the chief Lama leads the entire ritual. Other participants from the local community also offer their prayers. At the end of the first day of the festival, Lama blesses devotees with holy water and auspicious pellets. On the second day after blowing cymbals, horns, flutes and conch shells, similar nature of ritual is followed. On the final day monks perform sacred dances to ward off evil forces.

Ancient tale has it that an ordinary person named Bala turned into a demon after he accidentally ate burnt flesh of a corpse. Later people plotted a deception against him to kill him. After Bala’s death, people regretted the fact that they deceived him and so began to practice Bala Chaturdasi for seeking forgiveness from Bala. On 30th November Nepalese after taking ritual bath at dawn scatter grains all around for building a truce with diseased souls. A mela is organized near Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. This ritual is ended with blowing of a horn.

Bibah Panchami is a festival conceived for celebrating wedding of Ram and Sita on 6th of December. Janaki temple is the focal center of attraction during this festival. Children dress up as Ram and Sita and perform dramas that will take entire audiences to the memory lane of epical wedding ritual of Ram and Sita.

CHRISTMAS (December)
Christian community of Nepal celebrates Christmas on 25th December. Christmas is a fun-filled festival that harmonizes family. It brings together lost family together. A Christmas tree is decorated with exquisite decorative items. Gifts are placed hidden under the Christmas tree. Children are led to believe that Santa Claus has left their gifts hidden under the Christmas tree. After receiving gifts family members sit together for lavish dinner. The special menu set for the day is turkey.