Nepal is not only the land of mountains; it is also the land of festivals. There are more than 50 festivals celebrated in Nepal every year. While the national festivals have fixed dates, religious festivals are set by astrologers following the lunar calendar. The best part about the festivals in Nepal is that all the events are celebrated with the same enthusiasm and galore the way it used to be hundreds of years ago when people had no other means of entertainment.
Losar is one of the major festival of Nepal which is celebrate widely with in all Nepal. Nepal, the beautiful country situated on the lap of Himalayas, is a well known destination in the world tourism map with a distinct image of its own. The country with distinct floras and faunas, variation in the culture, is amazingly famous for more than a thing in the world. Apart from being the country of multi culture, multi language, multi caste, Nepal is also famous for its mesmerizing green hills, adventurous trekking trails, beautifully snow capped mountains and amazingly diverse culture.
One main thing that attracts thousands of tourists here is the hospitality and the culture of the people residing here. Though Nepal is a secular state, there are lots of Temples and Monasteries as the people here relatively follow Hinduism and Buddhism. Every alleys are filled with the stories of different gods and goddess and you will find a small temple in every corner of the country. Nepal is a religious country where every caste, culture and creed have their own faiths and values.
Among numerous festivals of Nepal, Maha Shivaratrai is worthy to note in the cultural aspect of Nepal, which is to be celebrated on Feb./March.
There are many festivals held in honor of the Hindu God Shiva every year, but the most important is Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Lord Shiva.
Hindu devotees on this night throng Shiva shrines everywhere, but the grandest of all activities revolve around Pashupatinath temple located on the banks of the sacred Bagmati River about three kilometres east of downtown Kathmandu.
This all-night vigil and the exciting crowded festival days before and after attract thousands of people from India and Nepal.
Pashupatinath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of Pashupati, Lord of the Animals, who protect and care for all men. It is said that Lord Shiva once roamed as a deer in the forest behind Pashupatinath.
This festival of water and colors that falls between February/March is also known as “Phagu” in Nepal. This day is observed to rejoice the extermination of female demon Holika who together with her King brother conspired to kill his son Pralhad, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This day, playful people especially the young ones wander through the streets in groups on foot or vehicles with various colors smeared all over them and the people in houses make merry throwing colors and water balloons at each other and also to these people on the streets.
The chariot procession festival of Seto Machindranath is celebrated during the month of Chaitra. This is three days long festival. The chariot of Seto Machindranath is pulled from place to place during these three days. Each day when the chariot has reached its destination a group of soldiers fires their rifles into the air.
On the first day, the deity is brought to Jamal by the priests. Then it is pulled to Asan, Kathmandu via Ratna Park and Bhotahity. The next day it is pulled from Asan Kathmandu to Hanumandokha. Finally it is pulled to Lagantole via Maruhity and Jaisideval. During all three days, people come and pay their respect to the God.
In this event, the deity is brought into the courtyard of the temple. All of the ornaments and clothes of the deity are taken off. Then the deity is bathed in several containers of water both cold and hot, milk, ghee, and honey. All of the actions are carried out by the priests of the temple. The main highlight of this event is that the living goddess Kumari attends this ritual.
Biska Jatra is an annual event in Bhaktapur, Dhapasi Thimi and Tokha and other places in Nepal. The festival is celebrated at the start of the new year on the Bikram Sambat calendar, however, the festival itself is not related to Bikram Sambat.
Legend has it that this celebration is the "festival after the death of the serpent". Various areas of Bhaktapur city celebrate this festival according to their own rituals. The most eventful places are Bhaktapur Durbar Square and Thimi Balkumari. A chariot carrying a statue of the God Bhairava is pulled by hundreds of people to the Khalla Tole. Approximately a month earlier, the chariot is assembled near the Nyatapola temple (five stair temple).
The signature event on Bhaktapur Tamadhi is a tug-of-war between the Thane (upper) and Kone (lower) part of town. An approximately 25 meter Yoh si Dyo is erected in the yosi khyo In the evening of New Year. The Yoh si is pulled down as the New Year officially commences.
This festival takes place between March/April and a grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel. The festival is observed to ward off demonic Gurumapa. It is said the soul of the demon still lives underground at Tundikhel. To prevent him from rising again, sounds of a horse hoves must be heard, hence, horse races and other exciting sports activities performed by the Nepal Army. A large number of people, even from outside Kathmandu flock around Kathmandu to witness the events.
Buddha’s birthday falls on the first full day of the first month of the Hindu lunar calendar and is celebrated by Hindus as well as Buddhists. It is observed at Buddhist shrines and monasteries throughout Nepal, but a particularly grand ceremony is held at Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini, on the Terai. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath and Boudhanath to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s birth place in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went in search of enlightenment.
It is a Newari festival celebrating the defeat of the mythical demon Ghanta-karna ("bell-ears") or "Gatha-Mungal" in local Newari language. The festival is celebrated every year on Shrawan Krishna Chaturdashi.
According to the myth, the demon wore bell earrings in order to drown out the name of the god Shiva with their jingling. Attributed to him are acts of robbery, murder, and kidnapping of children. Experts hold the view that the festival is probably a relic of ancient demonolatry in the Kathmandu valley.
People wear iron rings on their fingers with a belief of protecting themselves from the demons and evil spirits. Wearing those rings is just a part of the festival; Gathemangal is a lot more than that and various rituals will see in different parts of the City.
Naag Panchami falls in the middle of the monsoon. It is a Hindu festival that worships the serpent god, Naag. Pictures of Naag are posted in doorways, and milk is offered to him. It is believed that worshipping Naag protects against snake bites. This festival marks respect to serpents as the water guardians, and to ensure regular rainfall in the Kathmandu Valley.
Janai Purnima or the annual Sacred Thread Festival marks the day when the devout Hindu males change the white cotton thread they wear across their torsos and take a ritual bath in a river or a pond. The sacred thread, when it first tied, indicates formal entry into adulthood and a promise to follow their Hindu faith. On this day, other Hindu men, women and children, who celebrate this festival put a sacred thread around their wrist to be protected throughout the year.
Gosaikunda, the sacred pond in high altitude in the Langtang region witnesses the great celebration on this day.
The festival’s name is Gai Jatra (literally meaning the festival of cows) and nowadays it is a fusion of three traditions that came into being in three different periods of time. The first and the oldest tradition incorporates a cult and a worship of the ancient god of death – Yamaraj. Thus, the festival marks the acceptance and celebration of death in a positive way, as an inevitable part of life. Every family who has lost a member, in the previous year, is supposed to lead a carefully and intricately decorated cow through the city. In the absence of a cow, a boy dressed as a cow (the oldest for a lost male memberand the younger for a female) can successfully take on the role.
Believed to be the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Krishna is the most important character in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharat. The birth anniversary of Lord Sri Krishna, falls sometime in August/September. All the devotees assemble in Krishna Mandir, the ancient Krishna Temple in Patan Durbar Square and other temples with the idol of Sri Krishna and offer prayers, flowers, food, sweets and chant hymns.
This is a Hindu married woman’s day for her man. This festival is celebrated in August/September. Women clad in beautiful red saris with shining potes (glass beads), singing and dancing is the sight almost everywhere in Nepal during the festival of Teej. On this day women observe a fast and pray Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried women also observe this festival with unabated zeal with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.
According to Nepali culture and tradition, the new moon of the month of Bhadra in Nepali Calendar is known as Kushe Aunsi/Gokarna Aunshi. This day aslo observes the Nepalese / Hindu Father's day when, sons and daughter near as well as far come with gifts, foods, clothes, wishes and other items which are favoured by their fathers.
Persons whose father is no longer living, worship Gokarneshwor Mahadev temple, a sacred shrine of Lord Shiva. It lies in Gokarna village ,east of Kathmandu. According to Hindu mythology, on this day the Gods and Goddesses come down and bathe in Bagmati river to pay homage to Shiva.
The festival of Indra, the God of rain, is observed with great enthusiasm in Kathmandu Valley. The festival lasts for eight days. The chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, is taken out in procession through the main streets of Kathmandu. The festival is specially noted for the echoes of drums and dancing feet of the masked dancers almost every evening.
During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. Dashain is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable pujas (prayers) and, abundant offerings .
Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorised the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the country as the divine mother goddess.
This festival of lights that falls between October/November is the second biggest festival after Dashain. This festival lasts for five days and people worship Laxmi – the Goddess of Wealth. All the houses are cleaned and decorated with the belief that Goddess Laxmi will enter the house that is the cleanest and people lit candles, oil lamps and other lights and the whole place looks illuminating. During the five days, crows, dogs and cows are worshipped and honored with vermilion, garland and delicious food for what they have done in the lives of humans.
Maghe Sankranti is a Nepalese festival observed on the first of Magh in the Vikram Sambat (B.S) calendar (about 14 January) bringing an end to the winter solstice containing month of Poush. Maghe Sankranti is similar to solstice festivals in other religious traditions.
Observant Hindus take ritual baths during this festival, notably at auspicious river locations. These include Sankhamul on the Bagmati near Patan; In the Gandaki/Narayani river basin at Triveni, Devghat near Chitwan Valley and Ridi on the Kaligandaki; and in the Koshi River basin at Dolalghat on the Sun Koshi. Festive foods like laddoo, ghee and sweet potatoes are distributed. The mother of each household wishes good health to all family members.