Festivals in Nepal

Festivals in Nepal

Festivals in Nepal begin with religion, ending as social event. There are more than 50 major festivals in a year celebrated by Nepalese. Although most of these festivals are religious some have historical significance, while others are seasonal celebrations.

The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati's victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.

It is not hard to catch colorful processions in different streets of the Valley almost every other day of the week. Cultural acts of dances and songs are integral parts of some celebrations while some celebrations are just quiet family gatherings. Grand celebrations like Ghode Jatra and Gai Jatra entertain participants and spectators every year.

Bada Dasain / Durga Pooja
Bada Dasain / Durga Pooja
Bada Dasain / Durga Pooja

Dashain is the longest and most favorite festival of Nepal. Everyone stays home with their families while offices, businesses and shops remain closed. The skies of Kathmandu are filled with kites and the marketplaces are filled with farmers bringing their buffaloes, goats and chickens to sell. The animals are to be sacrificed on the night of Kal Ratri to the goddess Durga to celebrate her victory over evil. On the day of Dashami, everyone puts on new clothes and visit their family elders for their blessings, where they receive large red tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. In the following days of Dashain, families and friends unite, feasts are prepared, blessings are imparted and gifts are exchanged. Nepal’s most beloved festival ends with the full moon.

Bag Jatra
Bag Jatra
Bag Jatra

Bag Jatra falls on the day following Ropai Jatra. On this day men dressed as tigers and hunters roam around the town to caricature the favourite hobby of the old rulers.

Bala Chaturdarsi
Bala Chaturdarsi
Bala Chaturdarsi

This simple, festive day takes place in the ancient forest surrounding the temple of Pashupatinath. It is one of the oldest traditions of the Valley. Families who have lost a loved one in the last year keep an all night vigil in the forest, lighting oil lamps and singing songs. After a purifying morning bath, people walk through the forest, scattering seven types of grain along the paths and over the linga of Lord Shiva for spiritual enhancement of their late kinsmen as well as to cleanse the sins of a mythological man called Bala who had been transformed into a demon.

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Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja
Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja
Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja

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.

It is the day consecrated to honour Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of Learning, throughout Nepal. Saraswati shrines in the Kathmandu valley are filled with the crowd of school children and other students on this day. Most believe that Goddess Saraswati actually visits Kathmandu valley (more…)

Bhagwati Jatra
Bhagwati Jatra
Bhagwati Jatra

Bhagwati Jatra marks the end and climax of the week of festivals. The goddess Bhagwati, who symbolises power, supported the fight against the British-Indian troops. People stay in the Bhagwati Temple the night through to worship, sing, dance and observe the placing of a statue of Bhagwati into a chariot. The following morning government officials, as well as the army, police and many Palpalis make up a large procession through the town. However, due to the topography of the town, the chariots do not have wheels and are not pulled by animals, but are carried by members of a specialethnic group, the Kumal, whose usual occupation is pottery.

Bibah Panchami
Bibah Panchami
Bibah Panchami

All the people of the Hindu world know the story of Ram and Sita, as told in the epic Ramayana. King Janak, Sita’s father, proposed a test of strength among the eligible candidates asking for his daughter’s hand. The contest was meant to lift and shoot the great bow of Lord Shiva. Warriors, kings and chieftains came from afar, but no one could even lift the bow. Ram who came to earth as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu easily lifted the bow and when he tried to string it, the bow shattered into pieces. Ram and Sita were married in Janakpur, a southern city of Nepal, and their marriage is celebrated to this day. Each year, idols of Ram and Sita are brought out in procession and their Hindu wedding ceremony is re-enacted during a week-long religious fair. (more…)

Birth Anniversary of Late King Prithvi Narayan Shah
Birth Anniversary of Late King Prithvi Narayan Shah
Birth Anniversary of Late King Prithvi Narayan Shah

This day is celebrated all over the country by paying homage to the Great King, who is not only the founder of the present house of rules in Nepal, but also the creator of the unified Nepal of today. Great king Prithvi Narayan shah led by his vision and courage forged a large and unified nation out of a string of petty but independent principalities dotting the hills of Nepal more than two hundred years ago. Most appropriately, this day is celebrated as the Nation Unity Day, today. Stately processions are organized to go round the town with groups of musical bands and horse –drawn carriages carrying Great King Prithvi Narayan life size portrait. A public homage is later paid to the King at his Statue in front of Singh Durbar.

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Birth of Anniversary of the Late King Birendra
Birth of Anniversary of the Late King Birendra
Birth of Anniversary of the Late King Birendra

On the last December, birthday of late King Birendra is celebrated not only throughout Nepal but also by the Nepalese all over the world. Various cultural and social programs take place to celebrate the occasion.

Bisket Jatra
Bisket Jatra
Bisket Jatra

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. 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 for public display. At Bode village, there is a tongue-boring ceremony by which the dedicated may reserve a place in heaven.

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Buddha Jayanti or Baisakh Purnima
Buddha Jayanti or Baisakh Purnima
Buddha Jayanti or Baisakh Purnima

The ever-benevolent Buddha was born in Nepal and the religion he preached is the second most popular in the country. On the full moon day, the Lord’s birth, enlightenment and salvation are applauded throughout the valley with celebrations. Swayambhu and Boudhanath 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, walk around them and make offerings to the many Buddha images there.

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