Nepal Travel Options
It is said festivals outnumber days in Nepal hardly one goes by without one ethnic group or another having a reason to celebrate.
Is the main national festival of Nepal. Every Nepali is stirred by the prospects of joy that this festival brings with it. There is a change of mood in the weather with the humidity of the monsoon behind as the autumn season sets in, the climate is ideal at this time; it is neither too cold nor too warm.
Clear days and a clear blue sky coupled with green carpeted fields give cause for both celebration and optimism. The Nepalese people cherish Dashain as a time for feasting and dressing up. Each house sets up a shrine to worship the Goddess at this time and barley seeds are planted on the first day in every household, then nurtured for nine days,
During this period Goddess Durga Bhawani is worshipped with a lot of animal sacrifices. Buffaloes, goats, chickens and ducks are killed at the temples and many households. On the concluding day of the festival called the Tika, the elders of the family give Tika to their junior members and to other relatives who also come to get their blessings, the fresh shoots of the barley are put on the head or ear. Family feasting and feting of guests is a common practice at this time.
Tihar quickly follows Dasain it lasts for five days and is marked by the worship of different animals on certain days namely the crow, dog and cow followed by Puja. The most important day is Laxmi Puja.
The most fascinating sight of this festival is the illumination of the entire town with rows of small flickering lamps and candles in celebration of Laxmi Puja. (Goddes of wealth)
On the fifth day, sisters show their affection toward their brothers with a grand Puja and feed them with delicious food. They pray to Yama, the Hindu God of death for their brothers’ long life
It is thought that one year after the death, the soul of the dead wanders around awaiting entrance to the under world and it is the inescapable duty of living relatives to provide it with substance, comfort and peace once or twice each year, Bala Chaturdasi represents one of these occasions. The relatives pay homage to Pashupatinath and offer grains while making a circumference of the temple.
A Sankranti signifies the first day of any month in the Nepali calendar year. Maghe Sankranti is celebrated on the first day of the month of Magh (January) taken as a holy day in Nepal because the sun on this day is believed to be astrologically in a good position. It commences on a northward journey through the heavens, thus announcing the beginning of the Uttarayana, Nepalese believe this day marks the division of the winter and the summer solstice. Bathing in rivers, especially at the river confluence and feasting with rich food are both common practice during this festival.
On this day Nepalese people bid farewell to the winter season and look forward to the spring. Most of the people of Nepal worship the Goddess of learning “ SARASWATI”. The people of Katmandu valley go to a little shrine near Swayambhunath to worship this Goddess.
This is the most famous and celebrated Hindu festival of Nepal which attracts large amounts of people from places far afield both from India and Nepal. The festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva and is observed by bathing and religious fasting. All Shiva shrines become places to visit for “Darshan”, but the greatest attraction of all is held at the temple for Pashupatinath (on the banks of the holy Bagmati river a tributary to the Ganges) in Kathmandu. Thousands of Hindus devotees throng the temple, among them are a large number of Sadhus and naked ascetics. Many people stay awake for the whole night meditating over an oil lamp burnt to please Shiva. In the afternoon an official function is held to celebrate this festival at Tundikhel the main parade ground in central Kathmandu. Where the The Nepal Army organizes a show.
Known as Holy, is the festival of colour. It is observed for eight days just before the full moon of March during this time people indulge in throwing coloured water balloons at each other. The last day people “let loose” with coloured paste and water that they spread over all those that wish to play.
The festival does not have any religious importance. Nevertheless it has got some official status because it is heralded by the erection of a wooden pole with colourful streamers beside the old Royal Palace at Basantapur.
The festival has two distinct ways of celebrating. Culturaly it involves the Newars of Kathmandu, who celebrate for many days during this time. The idols of the Gods of many localities are taken in a procession in their area on portable chariots and every household will be feasting.
Less formerly a display for the people is organised by the Nepalese Army at the parade grounds at Tundikhel in central Kathmandu. In the afternoon of the main day horse races and acrobatic shows are presented.
A meeting of Kumari, Bhadrakali, Kankeshori and Bhairab at the bazzar in Asan on the second day of the main celebration is another highlight of the festival.
Seto Machhendranath Jatra is a popular festival held in honour of the white Machhendranath, who is actually the Padmapani Lokeswara (incarnation of Lord Buddha) his permanent shrine is situated at Matsyendra Bahal in Kel Tole in the bazaar area of central Kathmandu.
A huge wooden chariot set on four large wheels and supporting two tall towers covered with green foliage is made ready for receiving the image of the divinity which is then hauled by people around the old town. There is a huge turnout to pay homage to Seto Machhendranath who is also said to be the “Embodiment of Compassion“ of life at this time.
The celebration of the birth of Ram, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, a prominent Hindu God. A fast is observed and worship is offered to Ram followed by a special celebration takes place at Janakpur temple (Terai region) of Ram and Janaki on this day at a temple dedicated to them.
The festival takes place every twelve years between the settlements of Bungmati and Patan where the two shrines of Machhendranath the most widely respected deity of the Kathmandu valley are found, it is the biggest social-cultural event for both towns . It begins with a chariot (30 mtrs high appr) journey around the town of Bungmati, the Chariot is then hauled by people 12 kms to Patan and beyond. Machhendranath’s popular name is Bunga Deo, but non-Newars also call him by the name of Red Machhendranath.
A smaller yearly event is celebrated in Patan where a three wheeled chariot is prepared at Pulchowk and pulled through the town in stages until several days later it reaches Jawalakhel for the final celebration, the festival is known as Bhoto Dekhaune. The two Machhendranaths of Patan and Kathmandu form part of same cult of Avalokiteswara in the Mahayan religion.
A day, which falls on the full moon of the month to celebrate the birth, knowledge, enlightenment and death of Gautam Buddha, the founder and preacher of Buddhism. Prayers are sung with worship offered by Buddhists in leading Buddhist shrines throughout the country especially the birth place of Lord Buddha, Lumbini. A huge fare is held at Lumbini on this day.
Janai Purnima falls on the full moon of the month of July. Considered a very sacred day this festival is held throughout Nepal and is celebrated in different ways by various ethnic groups. The most widely accepted way of celebration is that of the Bhrahmins and Kshetris, the two major castes of Nepal. A ritual bath is taken followed by a change Janai (a holy thread worn across the shoulder). The Brahmins distribute strings of thread to be worn on the wrist as protective symbol for the following year. Many people travel for days to the higher Helembu region and the Sacred Lakes of Gossainkunda to bathe in their Holy waters. The pageantry of the Jhankris attired in their traditional costume as they come to bath at Kumbheshwor in Patan is one highlight on this day. These Jhankris also visit the temple of Kalinchowk Bhagawati in the Dolakha district (east of Kathmandu) where they go to display their healing powers, they are the traditional healers for Nepalese villages.
The week beginning from Janai Purnima begins a season of many religious and cultural activities. All the Buddhist monasteries open their gates to visitors to view their bronze sculptures and collections of paintings for a week. In Patan, people celebrate the festival of Mataya at this time.
The festival portrays teenage boys dressed up as cow who parade in the streets of the town. This custom springs from the belief that cows help the members of the family who died within that year to travel to heaven smoothly. Some people dress up as an ascetic or a fool for achieving the same objective for their recently deceased family members. Groups of mimics improvise short satirical performances on the current social scenes of the town for the entertainment of the public.
The festival of Gai Jatra itself lasts for a week it is punctuated by many lively performances of dance and drama in the different localities of the town. The spirit of the old festival has been increasingly adapted by cultural centres, newspapers and magazines to fling humour and satire on the Nepalese Social and Political life.
Is held in celebration of the birth of Lord Krishna, one of the incarnations of Vishnu. Religious fasting is observed, the Krishna temple in Patan is visited by many devotees on this day. A procession goes around the town displaying the pictures of Lord Krishna, a practice that was started in recent years by a religious organisation called the Sanatan Dharma Sewa Samiti.
Teej is the main festival for the women of Nepal. On this day the Nepalese women go to a Shiva temple in colorful dresses to worship Lord Shiva. In the Kathmandu valley, the majority of women will visit Pashupatinath to worship Shiva (Hindu God of Destruction) making a wish for the long life of their husbands.
Indra Jatra bares many similarities to Gai Jatra only the practices differ, the festival also heralds a week of religious and cultural activity in Kathmandu. On the night when this festival begins, members of the family in which there has been a death within the last year go around the town limits of Kathmandu burning incense and placing lamps along the route. The next morning a tall wooden pole representing the statue of Indra and large wooden masks of Bhairab are displayed in the bazaar. Several groups of religious dances are performed during the week in celebration of Devinach (women goddesses). The week commences with pulling of a chariot of Ganesh, Bhairava and Kumari in Kathmandu. The day also commemorates the victorious march on the town by King Prithvi Narayan Shah (the founding ruler of Nepal) who took over the town and assumed power in 1768