Festival and Holidays
Nepal is the ‘Land of Festivals’ with at least one part of the country celebrating a festival every day of the year. Festivals may be linked with the memory of the departed soul, to herald a different season, to mark the beginning or end of the agricultural cycle, to mark national events or for family celebrations etc. On a festival day the Nepalese take their ritual bath, worship different gods and goddesses, visit the temple, observe fasting and undertake feasting. 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. Dates are generally determined by the lunar calendar so it will fall on a different day each year. The following will be of particular interest to visitors.
Naya Barsha – नयाँ बर्ष 2077/2020 (Nepali New Year)
The first day of the month Baisakh is regarded as the Nawa Barsa which means the starting of the Nepali New Year. On the very day, people love to carry out themselves in a cultural outfit and have family gathering. Street dances, parades on the national costume, traditional games and sports activities are done to welcome the New Year. As it falls on the mid April the blooming flower will give you the feeling of peace and the butterfly roaming, the greenery will teach you to explore out the nature.
It is known as “Navavarsha” in Nepal. Nepal has its official calendar that begins from the first day of the first month Baisakh. People go the day socializing in various ways as this day is also a national holiday.
Buddha Jayanti (07 May 2020)
The special occasion of Buddha jayanti also called Buddha purnima is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of the lord Buddha on the full moon day of May. People often decorate the stupas including Lumbini, World peace stupa, Swayambhunath temple, bouddhanath temple which are some of the world heritage site that Nepal has and their houses in the name of Lord. A lot of the people lights the traditional light known as “diyo” on the very day which makes the place more magical in the evening. People distribute the Prasad which means a food served to the lord, to the passers in the public places. Monks and nuns go for a parade on the auspicious day to share the life story and the morals of the lord Buddha.
Ropain Jatra (Rice Plantation Festival – Asar 15)
Ropai jatra is the festival celebrated every year on ashad 15(June 29) as a symbol of end of planting period. Farmer’s do planting and ploughing by singing folk songs. Locals and even tourists take part in running competition on muddy paddy field in various touristic area of country. During the day, people eat curd, bitten rice, rice pudding, chapattis and fruits. This festival enumerate the joys and sorrows of the farmers.
Rakshya Bandan “Janai Purnima”
Janai Purnima also known as “Rishi Tarpani” is a time-honored tradition, Hindu people receive the “Rakshya Bandhan” thread, which is tied around the wrist as an amulet also the tagadharis or those who wear the ‘janai (the sacred thread) around their bodies from the left shoulder change the sacred thread on this day after having bath and a haircut. The threads are purified through the mantras by Brahmin priests as a symbol of protection from fear and disease. On that day devotees goes to the temple of lord Shiva and take holy deeps in the ponds, lakes and rivers. Some of the famous places for Janai Purnima are Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Kumbheshwor in Lalitpur, Gosaikunda in Rasuwa, Triveni in jumla, Panch Pokhari in Ramechhap and Sindhupalchowk and etc. The day is also known as kwanti (Lentils) purnima because the soup prepared from the nine different beans is eaten on the very day. In tarai region, there is a tradition in which sisters tie an attractive ‘Rakhi’ around the wrist of their brothers wishing them long life and prosperity.
The Buddhists observe this day in commemoration of the day Lord Gautama Buddha defeated the evil power of lust.
Nag panchami is a day of snakes or serpents that falls on every August. Snakes are regarded as the valuable ornament of Lord Shiva which is portrayed as wearing around his neck and Lord Vishnu is found sleeping on the coil of snakes. Those deity snakes are worshiped on the various lakes throughout the country. On the very day, people fast and pray for the well being of their brothers and families. People offer milk and honey to nag devata to make them happy and it is believed that doing so will keep the evil spirit away from them. Kathmandu used to be a huge lake until then the Manjushree from china came to drain out the huge lake as the Bagmati River. It is said that a lot of the powerful serpents used to live here which made this place fertile and applicable for the growth of the crops. Nags are regarded as the source of water so farmer’s worship Nag devata for the rain to grow the monsoon crops. People paste the picture of Nags in their doors for their good health and wealth throughout the year.
Krishna janma asthami is celebrated on every July or August to honor the birth Anniversary of Lord Krishna. It is celebrated with great devotion and enthusiasms in Nepal. Sri Krishna is regarded as the one of the most powerful human incarnations of the lord Vishnu. The actual celebration of janmasthami takes place the midnight as Sri Krishna is believed to be borned on a dark, stormy and windy night to end the rule and violence of his uncle, Kansa. All over Nepal this day is celebrated with the devotional songs and dances, pujas, arti, blowing of the conch and rocking the cradle of baby Sri Krishna. On this day, the temples and the houses are wonderfully decorated and illuminated. Night longs prayers are offered and religious mantras are sung in the temples.
Occurring around the month of August, Teej is a festival celebrated by women all over Nepal. Women dress up themselves in red saree and red tika, bangles and other ornaments. Women sing and dance to traditional folk songs for days. This festival is importantly special for the married women as they get a special invitation to visit their maternal home and feast. Enjoying long feast known as ‘Dar’, the women sit a long fasting for 24 hours. Married women worship lord Shiva to pray for their husband’s longevity and prosperity and Unmarried women to have attained a good husband in life.
Dashain (29th September – 8th October 2019)
Dashain, is the greatest festival of Nepal which is celebrated during Sept-Oct., it is the national festival and it is observed especially by Hindus. The Goddess Durga is prayed for nine days during the festival. On this occasion, the family members, who have gone outside, come home to celebrate the festival.On the tenth day of the festival, youngsters take tika and blessings from the elders.The first day of the festival is called “Ghatansthapana” when people sow seeds of corn in a tiny vessel filled with clay and water. The vessel is put in the prayer room. People pray to the Goddess Durga every morning. They also visit different Hindu temples.It is believed that the Goddess Durga, whose steed is a ferocious lion, was able to kill a Mahisasur (buffalo). Her victory is symbolized as the defeat over evil. The government offices, schools and other offices remain closed during the festival.
Tihar (26th – 29th October 2019)
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 worshiped and honored with vermilion, garland and delicious food for what they have done in the lives of humans. Crows are regarded as the messenger that brought news even during the times when there were no postmen and no postal services. Dogs are the most obedient animals and they guard our house as true guardians. Cow is also a symbol of wealth in Hinduism and she is also the national animal of Nepal.
During Tihar, the Newari community in Nepal also observes Mha puja – a ritual of worshiping one’s own body and life. On this very day, the Newari New Year which is also known as Nepal Sambat begins. The festival ends with Bhai Tika – brothers’ day when his sisters worship him for his long and healthy life to safeguard the lives of his sisters. This is also a gambling time in Nepal as gambling is not illegal during this festival.
Chhath (2nd November 2019)
Chhath is celebrated by natives of Mithila region of Nepal on the October or November in the English calendar. This festival is dedicated to God Sun. Chhath parva is thanks giving to Lord Surya (sun is Sanskrit) for sustaining the life on the Earth and to worship him to provide his continuous blessings to the mankind. Sun is regarded as the source of power of nature is worshipped to promote happiness, prosperity and to cure or prevent any diseases or problems in houses.
Chhath is celebrated for 4 days which includes the taking of holy deep, fasting, standing and worshipping the sun for long time and offering Prasad and argha to Rising and setting Surya. In this way, people share each other’s Prasad like thekuwa, bhusuwa, laddu etc to make the relation more strong every Chhath.
MERRY CHRISTMAS (Xmas)
Christmas is celebrated in Nepal in Nepali way. The church and many houses are decorated with beautiful lights and other decorations. Nepali Christians go to the church, bless each other, exchange their gifts and have an amazing feast with their nearer and dearer. Christmas is celebrated more amongst the Christians community in Nepal. However, other communities also participate in parties and other non-religious activities during holiday with Christians. People start shopping for the Christmas from the beginning of December. A lot of the Christmas trees and lights are erected in the houses to welcome the Christmas. There are so many organized festivals in various parts of Nepal where music, concerts and other stuffs are carried out.
ENGLISH NEW YEAR
As same as Christmas, the English New Year is also celebrated in the Nepali way. It is not that common to celebrate the English New Year in Nepal. However, the new generation has brought the trend of celebrating it in more interesting way in the present. A lot of the shops offer a discount on the special occasion of New Year. The nightlife during the New Year is amazing. There are so many organized festivals in various parts of Nepal where music, concerts and other stuffs are carried out. Houses, streets and shopping malls are decorated with flowers, lights and many more decorations. People wish each other a Happy New Year bless each other and maintain the brotherhood between each other.
Losar is celebrated for 15 days, with the main celebrations on the first three days. On the first day of Losar, a beverage called changkol is made from chhaang. The second day of Losar is known as King’s Losar (gyalpo losar). Losar is traditionally preceded by the five day practice of Vajrakilaya. Losar is also celebrated by Yolmo, Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, and Bhutia, although different regions in the country have their own respective new year. Losar is also celebrated by Tibetan Buddhists Worldwide. Yolmo Losar is observed on the same day as of the Chinese New Year.
Maghe sankrati is the festival celebrated on the 1st of magh (about 14th January) by all the Nepalese. However, it is regarded as the biggest festival of the Magars and the Tharus. On this day people eat ghiu, chakku, tarul and pidalu. Magar people perform their traditional dances and songs; they also have their traditional cuisines with family. Maghe Sankrati is also famous for the ghungi soup of the Tharus.
It is celebrated in February. The festival is celebrated to worship the Lord Shiva, who is the most popular Gods of the Hindus. Devotees from various parts of Nepal and India visit the Lord Pashupatinath. They pray to Lord Shiva’s image inside the temple. On the occasion, saints and sages, who emulate Lord Shiva, give lectures about Lord Shiva to the disciples.
Fagu Purnima (19 March 2020)
The festival generally falls in the month of March. Fagu or holi is a colorful and playful festival celebrated in various parts of the country. On the first day of holi, a chir pole decorated with colorful flags is erected at the Kathmandu Durbar Square to alert the people to hide their good clothes as colored powder and water balloons are thrown at them throughout the week.
Saraswati Pooja (20 January 2020)
The festival falls in the spring, the loveliest time of the year. Saraswati, the Goddess of learning, is worshiped at her temples in various parts of the country. In Kathmandu, His Majesty the King and other dignitaries visit the Kathmandu Durbar Square and welcome the season.
Jatras are the special occasion celebrated by the original inhabitant of the Kathmandu valley, the Newars. They are culturally rich ethnic groups of Nepal. A lot of the Jatras is celebrated in a year which includes Jatras like: Bisket Jatra, Ganesh Jatra, Gai Jatra, Indra jatra, Surya Narayan Jatra, Bhoto Jatra, Ghode Jatra. They carryout themselves in a cultural outfit during jatra. People worship different gods and goddess in different Jatras for pleasing gods to remove all the sins. Newari people are also famous for their cuisines so they eat their traditional food known as “taba” in the Jatras.
Indra Jatra (12 September 2019)
The festival is marked to extend thanks to Indra, King of Heaven and controller of the rains, for the rains. The festival is celebrated for eight days in Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Nepal has lot of small festivals; these are the main festival of Nepal. Get detailed information about the festival in our blog.