12 Most Prominent and Popular Festivals Of Nepal
12 Most prominent and Popular Festivals Of Nepal
Nepal is known for its numerous grand festivals that are colourful and vibrant. Most of the major festivals celebrated in Nepal have a religious connection based on ancient mythology for several millennia. Most of these festivals are Hindu and Buddhist, but it has recently included Muslim and Christian holidays into the national calendar as a secular nation.
Despite the diverse ethnic background and practices, most citizens unite to celebrate major festivals. Dashain and Diwali (Deepavali) are the most prominent celebrations for Hindus throughout the nation. In the old towns of Kathmandu valley, the Newar community celebrates festivals such as Bisket Jatra, Rato Machendranath, and Seto Machendranath.
Here are some of the principal/central festivals of Nepal.
Dashain and Tihar
Dashain 2020 – 5th October – 8th October
Tihar 2019 – 25th October to 29th October
These two are the biggest and most popular festivals of the Hindus in Nepal. Like many religious festivals worldwide, Dashain is a celebration of Goddess Durga’s victory over evil. It has a symbolic meaning that is deeply rooted in Nepalese society. Tihar or Diwali is a festival of lights and colours dedicated to Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth.
Buddha Jayanti or Vesak Day – 19th May 2019
Buddha Jayanti is celebrated to mark the triple celebration of Lord Buddha, his birthday, the day of his enlightenment, and Nirvana.
It falls on the whole moon night of May, mostly and occasionally in June. The Buddhist communities pilgrimage to Buddha’s birthplace, Lumbini and Swayambhunath and Boudhanath Stupas in Kathmandu valley.
Gai Jatra 19th August 2019
The festival of cows is another famous festival celebrated between August / September. Cows are marched on the streets of Kathmandu on this festival to commemorate the dead. Even though the Tharu community honours Gai Jatra, the Newar community of Kathmandu valley celebrates it with the most vigour.
Janai Purnima 15th August 2019
Janai Purnima is the festival when the Brahmin and Chettri men change their Janai (sacred thread) after bathing in a river in Nepal. It is also known as Raksha Bandhan, where sisters pray for the long life of their brothers. It usually takes place in early August.
Teej 1st September 2019
Teej is celebrated by women of Nepal annually. The women in Nepal celebrate it with dedication and love. Preparations for the festival begin well in advance. Shops that sell sarees, fabrics, and shoes are stocked up with most things red as it is life’s colour. When Teej approaches, women go on a shopping spree followed by sumptuous feasts.
On the day of Teej, women dress up beautifully in their red outfits and glass bangles and display their heavy ornaments, like traditional Nepalese brides. This festival is held for three days. On the first day, they feast, fast on the second day, and perform the “Rishi Panchami” puja for their husbands’ marital bliss and long life.
Krishna Janmashtami 23rd August 2019
Krishna Ashtami is observed to mark the birth of Lord Krishna. He is considered to be one of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The Hindus celebrate this festival with much fanfare in Nepal and neighbouring India.
Devotees of Lord Krishna fast or only consume fruits and dairy products on this day.
They visit temples dedicated to him in large numbers by carrying idols and images of Krishna. Traditional musicians often accompany them. It usually falls in August / September.
Fagun Purnima or Holi 20th March 2019
The ancient Hindu festival of Holi falls in either late February or early March. It is in celebration of the death of the mythical demoness Holika. It is a weeklong celebration. All observe the last day with coloured powders and water sprays.
Read more on Holi
Maghe Sankranti 15th January 2020
15th January 2019
Maghe Sankranti is also called Makar Sankranti. It is observed yearly on the first month, Magh, which usually falls around the 15th of January. The celebration marks the end of the supposed ill-omened month Poush in which all religious ceremonies are forbidden for the Hindus.
Even though Magh’s 1st is considered the coldest day of the year, the celebration welcomes warmer and better days for health and fortune. The festival is famous not only in Nepal but amongst Nepalese communities worldwide. It also is a celebration of the days getting more prolonged than the nights.
People take holy dips in rivers all over Nepal, despite the cold. The festival’s unique delicacies are yam, chaku (sweet prepared from boiled and hardened molasses), chaku-sesame candy, and ghee.
Indra Jatra 12th September 2019
Indra Jatra is the festival to worship Lord Indra. He is considered to be the God of Rain and King of Heaven. Therefore, celebrating this festival is believed to thank Indra for the rain and to make him happy. It is an eight-day festival at the end of August or early September.
The eighth-day festival also coincides with the Kumari Jatra – the procession of the Living Goddess.
Another significant event of this festival is Kumari Jatra (the procession of a living goddess). King Jaya Prakash Malla started this tradition in 1756 AD. Three chariots of Ganesh, Bhairav, and goddess Kumari are pulled along the Kathmandu festival route for three days, accompanied by musical bands and dancers. The three days of the chariot-pulling procession cover different festival routes, and each day’s celebration ends back at Basantapur.
Mahashivaratri 4th March 2019
It is also known as “The Night of Shiva.” This Hindu festival is celebrated annually with a deep respect for Lord Shiva. Devotees sing devotional songs to honour and worship Lord Shiva and sanctifying rituals throughout the night. For the devotees of Shiva, this is the most auspicious day of the year. It is believed that whoever worships him with sincere devotion will be rid of all sins and be blessed with Nirvana or Moksha (liberation from the eternal cycle of life and death).
Shivratri is the night he is believed to have performed a divine dance of primordial creation, preservation, and destruction. Therefore, this festival is commemorated for a whole day and night.
Sonam Loshar 25th January 2020, 5th February 2019
Gyalpo Loshar 25th February 2020, 5th February 2019
Tamu Loshar 30th December 2019
Lhosar is the celebration of the New Year among various Buddhist communities in Nepal. The word meaning of ‘Lho’ is year and sar, the new. This celebrates the beginning of the New Year and bids farewell to the old. Lhosar is marked by Mahayana Buddhism practitioners like Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung, Yolmo, and Bhotia. The Buddhists throng the monasteries in Kathmandu during this festival.
There are three types of Lhosar, namely Tola Lhosar, Sonam Lhosar, and Gyalbo Lhosar. Tola Lhosar is familiar with the Gurung community, and it usually is at the end of December. The Tamang and Yolmo communities celebrate Sonam Lhosar, and it takes in February. Finally, Gyalbo Lhosar is the festival of the Sherpa, Bhotia, and Tibetan communities.
Chhath Parva 2nd November 2019
Chhath is a prevalent celebration amongst the Madheshi community in the Terai region of Nepal and India. Chhath puja is performed on the sixth day of the month of Kartika in the Hindu calendar. This usually falls during October or sometime in November on the Gregorian calendar. It is the only Vedic Festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya, also known as Surya Shashti. The Chhath Puja is performed to thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and request specific wishes. The Sun is considered the source of energy and the life force. Sun worship, in Hinduism, is believed to help cure various diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of family members and friends.
The festival is rigorously observed for four days.
Along with these famous festivals, the young Nepalese in cities and big towns celebrate Christmas, the Gregorian New Year, and Valentine’s Day.
Photo courtesy: Yusha Pun