Major Festivals in Nepal: Be a part of celebration
Nepal is a remarkable and rare place where you can witness a variety of ethnicity and religious diversity living with brotherhood and peace. Hindu religion dominates the country followed by Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Kiranti, Jainism, and others.
With such diversification in religion and culture, Nepal celebrates more than 55 different festivals in a year. Such number of festivals arises from the ethnic diversity of Nepal. It is quite amazing that a country with an area of just 1,47,181 sq — meter homes more than 125 ethnic groups, each with different customs and culture celebrating their festivals. What is more amazing is all the communities celebrate each other’s festivals with joy, excitement, and respect.
Nepal celebrates festivals almost every week, but not all the festivals are celebrated nationwide. Some festivals are more than religion which gets attention from the whole country, while come are celebrated within the particular ethnic group. So, here are some prominent festival in Nepal which are revered and celebrated by the whole nation.
Dashain: A main festival of year
Dashain is the national festival of Nepal celebrated by almost all Nepali. Although it is a Hindu festival, people of other religion also makes participation in this joyous event.
Dashain is the major festival of Nepal celebrated for fifteen days. The first day of this festival is Ghatasthapana, which marks the beginning of Dashain. People worship different deities for eight consecutive days, the eight tantric goddesses and nine incarnated forms of Goddess Durga. And comes the tenth day, Bijaya Dashami, which is the most important day of the whole festival, when elders put tika and jamara to younger ones and give them blessings.
The celebration of Dashain symbolizes the victory of good over evil. As per the Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga killed a demon named Mahishasur who created a terror in devlok (a world where God lives). While other Hindu believes, Dashain is celebrated for the victory of Ram (incarnation of Vishnu) over Ravan (demon king of Lanka).
Tihar: A festival of lights
Although the title of the main festival goes to Dashain, the most exciting and vibrant one is Tihar. It is also known as the festivals of lights when houses are decorated with diyas, candle and electric bulbs. To increase the beauty, even more, houses are cleaned, and doorways and windows are decorated with garlands made of marigold and makhamali flowers.
Tihar is a five-day festival which arrives after fifteen days from Dashain. Tihar is a unique festival that celebrates animals who are a significant part of human life. Crow, dog, cow, and ox are worshipped during Tihar and offered them with various foods and garlands. The last day of the festival is Bhai Tika, where a sister worships his brother ensuring their long life and thanking the protection they provide.
The festival also serves many authentic sweet dishes like selroti, anaras, fini, and thekua. Also, friends form a group and sing dheuso and bhailo from house to house for fun and as a ritual of this festival. Tihar is probably the favourite festival in Nepal for marjority of people.
Holi: Play with colors and waters
Holi is the vibrant festival of color, which is traditionally known as Fagu Purnima. It is one of the most lively and enjoyable festival in Nepal. Holi is celebrated by putting different colors; one another be it a friend or strangers and drenching each other.
Holi is celebrated as a win of good over evil. As per the Hindu mythology, Holi is celebrated for the death of a demon she-demon Holika, who tried to kill a devotee of Vishnu, Prahlada. A fire occurred while Holika was attempting to kill Prahlada, but only Holika burnt to death.
The festival also signifies the end of winter and arrival of spring, a day to meet peoples, play and laugh, forget and forgive and repair broken relationships.
Teej: A Celebration of Hindu women
Teej, also known as Haritalika Teej is the greatest festival in Nepal for Hindu women. It is celebrated by girls and women with songs, dancing and prayer rituals.
It is a three-day long festival that combines sumptuous feast as well as rigid fasting. Women celebrate this festival for a long life of her husband and the long and firm relationship between them in this and all the lives to come by keeping very rigid fasting where they even avoid drinking water. The fasting is kept by both married and unmarried women. Married women avoid any kind of food and drinks with the belief that their devotion to God will be blessed with their wishes while unmarried keep the fast with a hope of being blessed with a good husband.
Teej is dedicated to the Goddess Parvati and her union with Lord Shiva. Despite the rigid fasting, Teej is a very vibrant festival as women enjoy a delicious feast with folk music and dances. In the fasting day, they come out with their best attire and makeup and sing in the street, going to temple in a holy and fasting mood.
Buddha Jayanti: Celebring the birth of Buddha
Nepal is the birthplace of Lord Buddha, so it is obvious that Buddha Jayanti, the birthday of Buddha is celebrated with extra spirit and joy. It is undoubtedly the most important day for Buddhist followers when not just Buddhist but people of different religion come together and spread the teaching of Buddha.
The festival is celebrated as per the teaching of Buddha by gentle and serene fervor. Followers of Buddha, monks, and nun goes on parades chanting prayers of moral of life. People also refrain from killing animals in this day and have vegetarian dishes as respect to Gautam Buddha.
Major Buddhist pilgrim sites like Lumbini, Boudhanath, Swayambhunath gets a large number of visitors. The shrines get very lively and beautiful with butter lamps lit as a sign of respect and admiration. So, visit a nearby shirne and don’t miss to observe this holy festival in Nepal.
Maghe Sankranti: Marking the end of Winter
As the name suggests the festival of Maghe Sankranti celebrated on the month of Magh in its first day. Nepal celebrates this festival welcoming the month of Magh and making an end to the winter solstice containing month of Poush. The festival falls in January as per the Georgian calendar.
Maghe Sankranti is celebrated throughout the country but with different aspects. It is also referred as Makar Sankranti. The festival is celebrated with extra vibrant and fervor in northern and eastern Nepal. Even the epic holy book, Mahabharat, has mentioned a significance of this festival. It is celebrated as a festival of Sun God, and he is also taken as a symbol of divinity and wisdom.
During this festival in Nepal, families get together and have a merry time enjoying various specials dish. Molasses, ghee, sweet potatoes, yams, sesame seed laddus are the must eat the food of Maghe Sankranti.
Hindu devotees visit temples and shrines nearby and take a ritual bath at auspicious river locations. Whereas in the Terai region, Tharu community celebrates this day as New Year. It is a week-long festival where families and friends come together to celebrate, different fairs and events are organized, people dress up in their traditional way and have fun eating and drinking.
Maha Shivaratri: A Homage to Lord Shiva
Maha Shivaratri is another festival in Nepal that is celebrated with passion and enthusiasm. The festival is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the name literally translates to “night of Shiva.” As per Nepali calendar, Shivaratri is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of Magh month.
As per the belief of locals, on this day the star in the North Hemisphere are at most optimum positions that help raise a person’s spiritual energy. There are several legends surrounding the tradition of Maha Shivaratri.
One of them says that this night is when Lord Shiva performs a heavenly cosmic dance of creation, preservation, and destructions. Chanting of hymns, reading of Shiva scripture and chorus of devotees join this cosmic dance and remembers Shiva’s presence everywhere.
Another legend believes that this is the night when Shiva and Parvati united as one.
Although Maha Shivaratri is celebrated throughout the country, Pashupatinath temple of Kathmandu witnesses around a million followers, Pashupatinath is the most revered and holiest shrine of Hindus and also considered as the Guardian and Protector of Kathmandu valley as well as Nepal.
So don’t miss out a chance to observe this distinctive festival of Nepal by visiting Pashupatinath.
Krishna Janmashtami: Birthday of Lord Krishna
Krishna Janmashtami is the celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnations of Vishnu. The festival is also referred to as only Janmashtami or Gokulastami. It is celebrated on the eighth day of a dark fortnight in Shrawan.
This festival marks an important celebration to Vaishnavism tradition of Hinduism. As Nepal’s religion is dominated by Hindu, Krishna Janmashtami holds a special essence as a festival in Nepal.
In this day activities like dance-drama enactments of life of Krishna as per Bhagvat Piran, devotional singing like bhajans and kirtans in midnight when Krishna is believed to be born, keeping fast, night vigil and a festival on the following day are the way of celebrating Krishna Janmashtami.
Janai Purnima: A Festival with different celebrations
Janai Purnima is another festival in Nepal celebrated by Hindus. Janai translates as holy thread and Purnima as the full moon, as the name itself suggests, it is celebrated in a full moon day.
Brahmins and Chhetri group of Hindu religion perform their annual ritual of changing Janai on this day. Janai is an important thread worn across the chest by Brahmin and Chhetri man. However, Janai can’t be worn by those who haven’t performed Bratabandhan yet. Men change the thread after taking a bath in holy rivers.
There are three cords on Janai which symbolizes body, speech and mind and the one who wears it is supposed to have gained complete control over each symbol. It must be worn every day onwards for the rest of their life and must not put disgrace to the religion.
Raksha Bandhan is another festival celebrated on the day of Janai Purnima, especially in Terai region. On this day, sister tie rakhi (thread) on her brother’s wrists as a bond of protection. This festival of Nepal helps built a positive relation of care and affection between siblings and the entire family as well.
Janai Purnima is Kwati Purnima day which is mainly celebrated by Newar community of Nepal. A special dish, Kwai is prepared on this day, which is a mixture of nine sprouted beans: black gram, field bean, soybean, green gram chickpea, garden pea, field pea, rice bean, and cowpea. The dish is prepared in a very savory way and consumed with friends and family together.
Losar: Celebriting Tibetan New Year
Losar is another important festival in Nepal celebrated by mainly Buddhists. It predates the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet and has its roots in a winter incense-burning custom of Bon religion. As Nepal’s second largest religion is Buddhism, Losar is celebrated with full joy all over the country.
On the occasion of Losar, people visit temples, monasteries, and stupas to offer their prayer, worship the god and receive blessings from lamas for health and happiness. People also decorated their houses, monasteries, and stupas with new and colorful prayer flags. Ethnic groups like Tamang and Sherpa, Gurung prefer to wear traditional dress and perform singing and dancing with friends and family.
Another interesting part about Losar is, in total there are three types of Losar in a year which are celebrated in Nepal.
Gurungs of Nepal celebrate Tamu Losar for three days with different activities like enjoying traditional cuisine, gathering friends and family, singing and dancing. It falls on every 15th of Poush as per Nepali calendar.
Soman Losar is celebrated by Tamang ethnicity. The festival is celebrated for 15 long days, but the first three days have the main celebration. It is celebrated on the first new moon of Magh.
Gyalpo Losar is for Sherpa community who mainly resides in the Himalayan region of Nepal. It also marks as a celebration of Tibetan New Year. The festival is celebrated typically for almost two weeks.
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