Nepali Festivals and Celebrations

Nepal is multicultural nation. There are more than 60 ethnic groups and almost all the communities have their own language. Nepal is a place of celebration and festivals which is connected with religion, tradition and social events. Nepal has festivals almost full year in one or other communities. There are communities in Nepal who have almost festivals and Jatras every day. Each day is full of joy and cultural events. Most of the festivals are observed according to the lunar calendar. Therefore, the festivals do not have the specific day matching solar calendar or English calendar’s date.

Dashain festival is the longest and considered to be the most important festival of Nepal. Dipawali (Tihar) brings same joy to Nepalese people. Other important festivals are Losar, Buddha Jayanti, Chhat Parba, X-mas, Ramadan and much more. Maha Shivaratri, Janai purnima (Rakhsya bandhan), Krishna Janmaasthami, Ram Nawami and so many festivals are of utmost important.  

Most of the festivals and events including marriage ceremony are celebrated with music and songs.  Music is integral part celebrations. National celebrations like Democracy day, Republican day, Ghode Jatra, Gai Jatra are celebrated with possessions and demonstrations.


Maghe Sankaranti(Maghi)

Maghi is observed in January on the first day of the month of Magh, bringing an end to the ill-omened month of Poush when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. People take Holy Bath in this festival and make and distribute delicious fudges like laddoo, ghee, chaku, sweet potatoes etc. Mother of the house wishes good health to all family members. According to Mahabharata, king Bhisma, who had the control on his own death, choose to die on the day of Maghe Sakranti. Therefore it is believed that person die  this day achieve Moksha (salvation).

Maha Shivratri

Ratri means Night. The no-moon night of falgun (February) is dedicated to Lord Shiva and celebrated by Hindus all over the world. It is observed as the birthday of Lord Shiva. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in Nepal all across. Most of the spectaculars events happen at the Pashupati Temple in Kathmandu. This is an incredible spectacle, with devotees paying tribute to Lord Shiva by smearing their bodies in ashes. Yogis and jogis are the events and shows of the day in Pashupatinath. The worships are performed throughout the night.

Fagu is the festival takes place on the last day of Fagun. It is on full-moon day. This is a festival of color  and sweets. People through/put water and colors on each other in the hol and eat malpuwa (sweet beard). Holi is celebrated in Tarai (Madhesh) day after celebrated in Kathmandu.

Traditionally on the 15th of Chaitra, all horses and ponies belong to Nepal police and army are assembled at the grand parade ground (Tudikhel) and entered into a race and other spectacular events in front of the president and top officials who are stationed around a central monument.

This is celebration of the birth and enlightenment of Lord Buddha. It is celebrated with enchanting mantras in Buddhist temple (Gumba). It is observed as national holiday.

This festival is mainly observed in Kathmandu. Gai Jatra is held on the 1st day of Bhadau. People who have lost loved ones during the year traditionally disguised themselves as cows and danced around the city. This festival is started by king Pratap Malla (17th century) of Kathmandu in remembrance of his son who died at early age. He wanted to show his queen, the death is a regular phenomenon and they are not alone in the city who lost their loved ones that year.

The Indra Jatra begins on the 26th of Bhadau and lasts for eight days. On the first day a lofty wooden post is erected before the king's palace and dancers from all across Nepal perform with masks. If an earthquake ever occurred on the opening day of the festival this was considered a bad omen and the festival would have to be restarted. On the third day, young girls (pancha kanya) are brought before the leader of the state and worshipped and then carried through Kathmandu, mounted on oars.

Vijaya Dahami (Dashain)

Dashain is the 15-day national festival in Nepal. The festival falls about in September-October. It is after harvest. So it is celebrated as harvest festival too. This festival is known for emphasis on family gatherings, as well as on a renewal of community ties. People come back home from all parts of the world to celebrate festival and get blessings of their elders. Goddess Durga is worshiped for 9 days. In the tenth day Tika and jamara is put on the forehead by elder with blessings.

Tihar is five-day Nepalese festival celebrated in late autumn. It is followed by Dashain. Tihar is festival of lights. All the houses are lighted. The five day festival is considered to be of great importance as it shows reverence to not just the humans and the Gods, but also to the animals like crow, cow and dog, who maintain an intense relationship with the humans. The fifth and last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika, a day where sisters put "Tika" on forehead of brothers, to ensure long life, and appreciate the love and care brothers provided. When the sisters give the "Tika", the brothers give gifts or money as a return. A special garland is made for the brothers out of a flower that wilts after a couple of months, symbolizing the sister's prayer of her brother's long life.

Festival of Chhath is observed mostly in Tarai region in Nepal. This is the festival in which the sun is worshipped when it rises and sets. The festival is celebrated after Tihar (Deepawali). It is especially significant for married women. They observe a two-day fast and offer prayers while keeping almost three-quarters of their body immersed in water for two hours.This festival is observed for four days. The first day is Arba Arbain or Nahan Khan. The devotees take fast by discarding meat, garlic and onion. The second day is Kharana meaning the reduction of sin. On the third day, the devotees go to the rivers and ponds singing folk and devotional songs. The fourth day is called Paran or Parwan.

Losar is Tibetan New Year. People celebrate it for several days doing activities like singing, dancing and feasting are observed. A colorful crowd gathers in the area around the stupa. Hundreds of Tibetans are dressed in a wide variety of beautiful traditional costumes sometimes mixed with western clothes. They smile, laugh and greet family and friends as they bump into them in the crowd. The atmosphere is saturated with anticipation. A group of monks led by a high rank teacher appear and pass through the lion-framed gate into the inner area of the stupa.

Teej also known as Haritalika Teej is a fasting festival for Hindu women. It takes place in 3rd day of Shukla Paksha in Bhadrapada or Bhadau month of Nepali calendar. It normally falls in August or early September. Dedicated to the Goddess Parvati, commemorating her union with Lord Shiva, the festival is celebrated for marital bliss, well-being of spouse and children and purification of own body and soul. The festival is a three-day-long celebration that combines sumptuous feasts as well as rigid fasting. Pashupati nath temple in Kathmandu is the main attraction in that day. All the women in red singing, dancing and fasting all the day can be seen in in temples.