Taking part in one of the many festivals in Nepal may be the highlight of your trip. Though most are religious in nature, they are always an occasion for merrymaking, and not solemnity as one might expect, and foreigners are always welcome to join in. It is an experience you’ll never forget and will show you an important part of Nepali culture. So if you want to include one in your trip, just let us know!
The fifteen day long Dashain festival is the closest to the Nepali’s heart. Although Hindu in origin, it’s enthusiastically embraced by members of almost all religious and ethnic groups. During the festival, families get together, children indulge in flying kites and swinging on makeshifts swings called Pings and devotees gather at temples.
The most important days are the seventh day, when a bouquet of sacred flowers is carried in a procession in Kathmandu, the ninth day, which begins with the sacrifice of animals in the temples and the tenth day, when families visit their elders to receive their blessings.
Tihar, also known as festival of lights, is the second biggest festival in Nepal and is celebrated for 5 days. During this festival, the Nepalese worship cows for prosperity and wealth, dogs for their loyalty, crows as messengers of Yamraj, the God of Death, and Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Good Fortune. On the third day families throughout Nepal light their homes with oil lamps, candles and electric lights, which makes this festival a picturesque extravaganza. On the last day, sisters bless their brothers and give them flowers, garlands and sweets. And during this festival the Newari ethnic group celebrates their new year.
This Hindu festival honours Surya, the Sun God in order to thank him and to request the granting of wishes. It is one of the most important festivals for the people of the lowlands, the Terai, but it is celebrated all over Nepal, including Kathmandu. Devotees, mainly women, gather along the riverbanks to worship the God and take ritual baths. They wait for the sunset, lighting lamps, singing songs and walking into the water to pray and make offerings to the fading sun. The ritual is repeated the next morning at dawn when they wait for the sunrise to offer prayers, holy water, fruits, coconuts and sweets.
Shivaratri literally means Lord Shiva’s Night and during this time devotees worship this Hindu God. It is marked by bonfires and nightlong vigils at all Shiva temples. Pilgrims and Sadhus, the Hindu monks, gather to remember Shiva by chanting prayers, and making offering of bael leaves and milk.
It is also a time for fasting, Yoga and meditation. Smoking marijuana on this day is accepted and considered an offering to the God, who was an avid smoker himself. During this night, children block the streets by holding ropes and say that Shiva is feeling cold and they needs some money to buy some firewood.
Holi, also known as the festival of colours, is a spring festival. It signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring and end of winter.
On this day, people play with colours, smearing each other and drenching each other with water guns and water-filled balloons. Colour runs all over the world took inspiration from this event.
People also sing and dance in the streets and music festivals are often organised. Holi is a time to forgive and forget, have fun and repair broken relationships.
Buddha Jayanti, Buddha’s birthday, is celebrated in accordance to the lunar calendar, on the evening of the full moon in May. It is a special day for both Hindus and Buddhists, as Hindus consider Buddha a reincarnation of the Lord Vishnu.
On this day people celebrate the life of Lord Buddha, his birth, enlightenment and death. Stupas and temples are decorated with thousands of butter lamps and rituals and dances are performed by the priests, who dress to represent the five aspects of Buddhahood.
This Hindu festival is a women’s festival. It is dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva.
Women, wearing their finest red outfits, start with a night out, visiting their parents and siblings and feasting until midnight when they begin a day long fast.
The following day, they queue to worship Lord Shiva in temples and they pray for the long lives of their husbands. Groups of women dressed in red are seen everywhere singing and dancing in the streets.
There are many Jaatras celebrated in the different towns of the Kathmandu valley by the Newari community, native to the area. During the Jaatras, people gather around a procession of masked devotees dancing and pulling a wooden chariot. The main ones are Seto Machhendranath Jaatra (March-April), Machhendranath Rath Jaatra (April-May), Gaai Jaatra (July-August) and Indra Jaatra (August-September). The first and the second celebrate the Deity of Rain. The third celebrate cows (gaai) and is a time for families to honour their loved ones who died, and for young to dress in cow costumes or as Sadhus. And during the fourth, the Kumari, the living Goddess, is worshipped.
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