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Festival holiday in Nepal

The Major Festivals in Nepal

Festival holiday in Nepal, Festivals in Nepal are as number as there are days in a year. Blessed to be one of the most diverse countries in the world, almost every day  Nepal and Nepalese are participating in some sort of festivals and celebrations because of cultural and religious diversity .

DASHAIN

During the month of Kartik (late September and early October), the Nepalese people indulge in the biggest festival of the year, Dashain. It is the longest and the most auspicious festival in the Nepalese annual calendar, celebrated by Nepalese of all caste and creed throughout the country. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Thorough out the kingdom of Nepal the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood.

Dashain commemorates a great victory of the gods over the wicked demons. One of the victory stories told is the Ramayan, where the lord Ram after a big struggle slaughtered Ravana, the fiendish king of demons. It is said that lord Ram was successful in the battle only when goddess Durga was evoked. The main celebration glorifies the triumph of good over evil and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the terrible demon Mahisasur, who terrorized the earth in the guise of a brutal water buffalo. The first nine days signify the nine days of ferrous battle between goddess Durga and the demon Mahisasur. The tenth day is the day when Mahisasur was slain and the last five days symbolize the celebration of the victory with the blessing of the goddess. Dashain is celebrated with great rejoice, and goddess Durga is worshiped throughout the kingdom as the divine mother goddess.

In preparation for Dashain every home is cleansed and beautifully decorated, painted as an invitation to the mother goddess, so that she may visit and bless the house with good fortune. During this time the reunion of distant and nearby relatives occur in every household. The market is filled with shoppers seeking new clothing, gifts, luxuries and enormous supplies of temple offering for the gods, as well as foodstuffs for the family feasting. Thousands of sheep, goats, ducks, chicken and water buffalo are prepared for the great slaughter. All types of organizations are closed for ten to fifteen days. Laborers are almost impossible to find; from the poor to the rich, all enjoy the festive mood. Anywhere you go the aroma of 'Vijaya Dashami' is found.

The first nine days of Dashain are called NawaRatri when tantric rites are conducted. In Nepal the life force is embodied in the divine energy and power of the female, depicted as goddess Durga in her many forms. All goddess who emanated from goddess Durga are known as devis, each with different aspects and powers. In most mother goddess temples the deity is represented simply as a sacred Kalash, carved water jug or multiple handed goddess holding murderous weapons. During these nine days people pay their homage to the goddess. If she is properly worshiped and pleased good fortunes are on the way and if angered through neglect then misfortunes are around the corner. Mother goddess is the source of life and everything.

The first day of Dashain is called Ghatasthapana, which literally means pot establishing. On this day the kalash, (holy water vessel) symbolizing goddess Durga often with her image embossed on the side is placed in the prayer room. The kalash is filled with holy water and covered with cow dung on to which seeds are sown. A small rectangular sand block is made and the kalash is put in the centre. The surrounding bed of sand is also seeded with grains. The ghatasthapana ritual is performed at a certain auspicious moment determined by the astrologers. At that particular moment the priest intones a welcome, requesting goddess Durga to bless the vessel with her presence.

The room where the kalash is established is called 'Dashain Ghar'. Generally women are not allowed to enter the room where puja is being carried out. A priest or a household man worships the kalash everyday once in the morning and then in the evening. The kalash and the sand are sprinkled with holy water everyday and it is shielded from direct sunlight. By the tenth day, the seed will have grown to five or six inches long yellow grass. The sacred yellow grass is called 'Jamara'. It is bestowed by the elders atop the heads of those younger to them during the last five days when tika is put on. The jamara is taken as a token of Goddess Durga as well as the elders blessing.

As days passes by regular rituals are observed till the seventh day. The seventh day is called 'Fulpati'.

In fulpati, the royal kalash filled with holy water, banana stalks, jamara and sugar cane tied with red cloth is carried by Brahmans on a decorated palanquin under a gold tipped and embroidered umbrella. The government officials also join the fulpati parade. With this the Dashain feasting starts.

The eighth day is called the Maha Asthami: The fervor of worship and sacrifice to Durga and Kali increases. On this day many orthodox Hindus will be fasting. Sacrifices are held in almost every house through out the day. The night of the eighth day is called 'Kal Ratri', the dark night. Hundreds of goats, sheep and buffaloes are sacrificed at the mother goddess temples. The sacrifice continues till dawn. While the puja is being carried out great feasts are held in the homes of common people where large amount of meat are consumed.

The ninth day is called Nawami: Temples of mother goddess are filled with people from dawn till dusk. Animals mostly black buffaloes are slaughtered to honor Durga the goddess of victory and might and to seek her blessing. Military bands play war tunes, guns boom and officers with beautifully decorated medals in full uniform stand there. When the function ends the courtyard is filled ankle deep with blood. On this very day the god Vishwa Karma, the God of creativity is also worshiped. All factories, vehicles, any machinery instruments and anything from which we make a living are worshiped. We also give sacrifices to all moving machinery like cars, airplanes, trucks etc. to get the blessing from goddess Durga for protection for vehicles and their occupants against accidents during the year. The entire day is colorful.

The tenth day is the Dashami: On this day we take tika and jamara from our elders and receive their blessing. We visit our elders in their home and get tika from them while our younger ones come to our home to receive blessing from us. The importance of Dasain also lies in the fact that on this day family members from far off and distant relatives come for a visit as well as to receive tika from the head of the family. This function continues for four days. After four days of rushing around and meeting your relatives Dashain ends on the full moon day, the fifteenth day. In the last day people stay at home and rest. The full moon day is also called 'Kojagrata' meaning 'who is awake'. The Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi is worshipped. On this day the goddess Laxmi is given an invitation to visit each and everyone.

After Dashain everyone settles back to normal. After receiving the blessing of goddess Durga, people are ready to work and acquire virtue, power and wealth. Dashain thus is not only the longest festival but also the most anticipated one among all the festivals of Nepal.  

TIHAR

Tihar, also called as Diwali or Deepawali, ranks second only to Dashain in Nepal. It usually takes place in Nepali Kartik month (October to November in Solar Calendar) and continues for five days. During this festival, people will honor crows, dogs, cows as well as Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and luck. As numerous candles and festive lanterns will be lit up for the Goddess of Laxmi, Tihar is also well-known as the festival of lights.

Day 1 -KaagTihar/Crow Day, Worshiping crows  On the first day of Tihar Festival, people will offer rice to the crows, "the messenger of death". These crows are busy all year round, and only have this day to rest. It is important to ensure that the crows are happy, otherwise they will inform the bad news, and bad things would happen in the coming year.

Day 2 -Kukur Tihar/Dog Day The second day of Tihar Festival is called as Kukur Tihar. On this day, Nepalese will honor dogs for they believe that the dog can guarantee the souls of the dead to get to heaven. People usually put dogs with colorful Tika and calendula garlands, and then treat them with a delicious  food. In Nepal, the dog plays an important role as "the gatekeeper of death", which is said to lead the deceased across the river of death in the underworld. On Kukur Tihar, Nepalese policemen will present beautiful garlands to the patrol dogs and paint their foreheads in red cinnabar to thank for their contributions in social security.

Day 3-Gai Tihar and Laxmi Puja, honoring cow and the goddess of wealth On the third day of Tihar Festival, Nepalese often worship cows and Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. This day is also the most special day in the festival. People would get up early and clean the house thoroughly, have  bath and put fasting in the name of Goddess Laxmi for full day . After a cozy bath, those cows are worshipped putting  red Tika and garlands and giving  them delicious food .When the night falls, dazzling candles, oil lamps and bright lights are lit up at the doors, steps, even on the roof. All the Nepalis will make their home as luminous as possible to attract Laximi's attention. If the day happens to be Saturday, shops and stores won't follow the traditional practices and keep open to welcome the goddess of wealth. At this moment, Nepalese kids won't be idle. They come to visit neighbors in small groups and sing Tihar songs like Bhailo and Deusi for blessings. In return, the house owner give them money, fruit and sweets. in this way the third day is completed .

Day 4- Goru Puja, Govardhan Puja and Maha Puja, celebrating Newari New Year Under different cultural background, people will honor different things on the fourth day of Tihar. As ox is an indispensable helper for the farmer, people will perform Goru Puja for ox. Considered as the representative of Govardhan Mountain, cow dung is worshiped in Govardhan Puja. In addition, this day is also seen as the beginning of the new year for Newar community in Kathmandu valley. All the Newarians will reunite for this festival and perform Maha Puja to worship themselves.

On this day, the elder father would draw two geometric figures. One is painted for blessing the whole family and the other is dedicated to the death of Yama and his messenger. Then all the members will have a special family feast and enjoy some delicious food, like boiled eggs, fried fishes, tasty desserts, etc. After the grand banquet, they'll take turns to worship the death of Yama Panchak and exchange Tihar gifts with each other to pray for good luck in the next year.

Day 5- Bhai Tika The last day of Tihar is known as Bhai Tika. On this day, brothers and sisters will gather together and accept Tihar quotes on their foreheads. After placing  Tika of seven colors and splendid garlands to the brothers, the sisters would offer them some Shaguns  (a kind of candy) as Tihar gift. And then the brothers would follow the same ritual to put Tika to their sisters and give them some money and gifts in return. This celebration has enhanced the close relationship between brothers and sisters.

CHHATH  PARVA

Chhath Parva, the festival which is symbolic of purity, good will and faith is being celebrated in the country   with much fanfare and enthusiasm. It attracts thousands of pilgrims to the holy town of Janakpur in south-eastern Nepal. But it is celebrated all over Nepal including Kathmandu where people from the Terai gather along the banks of holy rivers  to worship.

Devotees from Nepal and India throng the ancient city of Janakpur to worship at the famous Janaki Temple and take ritual baths in the rivers and ponds. The Hindu festival dedicated to the Sun God is observed for four days.

During the celebrations, devotees avoid non-vegetarian food and certain kinds of grains and spices such as millet, buckwheat, lentils and garlic. Holy dip into rivers, fasting, abstaining from even drinking water, and maintenance of purity and cleanliness are parts of the rigorous Chhath rituals.

Likewise, devotees offers Arghya (offering of water) and pay a special homage to the setting sun at evening .The festival will concluded by worshipping and offering Arghya to the rising sun on the final day .Various delicacies like ‘thekuwa ‘ and ‘rice pudding ‘ are prepared and served during the festival .

LHOSAR

Lhosar is celebrated by Nepalese ethnic groups who trace their history to Tibet, namely the Gurung, Tamang and Sherpa people. Lhosar is the first day of the new year, and each community celebrates the festival differently. Traditional dress is worn by young and old, and festivities held in cities and more remote regions.It is among one of the main festival celebrated by few indigenous people. This is national holiday festival in .There are three kinds of Lhosar celebrated by people in Nepal . Types of Lhosar includes Tamu Lhosar, Sonam Lhosar,Gyalpo Lhosar .

1. Tamu Lhosar
Tamu  is another name of “Gurung” and  Tamu Lhosar is festival celebrated by the Gurung communities of Nepal .The Tamu Lhosar marks the beginning of the Tamu Sambat or Gurung Calendar Year. Tamu Lhosar is celebrated on every 15th Poush of the Nepali calendar (in December/January). Every year in this day, people from Gurung community gather and celebrate this festival merrily. They sing, dance, eat different traditional cuisines and attend rallies. This festival reflect the culture of Gurung peoples .

They wear traditional clothes where men wear Bhangra, a white cloth shirt-like apparel tied across the chest and open like a bag at the back (for carrying things), and a Kachhad, like a short sarong or kilt. Gurung women, both children and adolescents, were seen in their maroon velvet Ghalek (blouses), enhanced by large gold earrings and semi-precious stone necklaces. As it carries religious, cultural and historical importance, people celebrate this festival to their best and make this festival memorable.

2. Sonam Lhosar
Sonam Losar is also mostly celebrated by Tamang community of Nepal. Unlike Tamu Lhosar and Gyalpo Lhosar, Sonam Lhosar has its own traditional and religious values. Lho means year or age and Sar means new or fresh. The word Lhosar means New Year or beginning of new era. Tamang celebrate their new year on the first day of new moon or in other words the very next day after the no-moon day of month of Magh (Magh Sukla Pratipada).

As Tamangs have their life style similar to that of Tibetan people, the way of celebrating this festival also matches with them. The Tibetan calendar is made up of twelve lunar months and Lhosar begins on the first day of the first month.

People from Tamang community gather and they celebrate this festival merrily. They sing, dance, eat different traditional cuisines and attend rallies. They wear their own traditional dress which is accompanied by a traditional hat worn by both boys and girls. They showcase their culture and traditions  to other peoples belonging to different religion . People are preserving it and teaching their younger generations to follow it and further preserve it.

 3. Gyalpo Lhosar
Gyalpo Lhosar is mostly celebrated by the Sherpa community of Nepal who lives in upper Himalayan region where there is high influence of Tibetan culture . People from Tamang, Butia  and Yolmo community also celebrate this festival . Different communities and peoples of different places have their own way of celebration .This also represents Tibetan’s  new year .The celebration of Lhosar begins on the 29th day of 12 months calendar .

Gyalpo lhosar  is almost celebrated 2 weeks, where people sing, dance eat merrily foods and perform different rituals activity relating gods and demons . This festival brings reunion of family and relatives at one place with a great celebration and joy . During the festival people of different community and place  wear traditional dress which reflect the ancient culture .

Maha Shivaratri  (Great night of lord Shiva )

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated before the arrival of spring that marks the “Great Night of Shiva,” a Hindu deity. It is a major holiday in Hinduism, a solemn remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance. Because the holiday is based on the Hindu Lunar Calendar, the date it is celebrated changes each year.

It is believed that poison came out of the ocean during Samundra Manthan. In order to protect the citizens, Shiva drank the poison, but it did not kill him. Instead, it caused his throat to “burn blue.” The day is a public holiday in Nepal with offices, schools and businesses closed to honor Shiva.

Thousands of visitors come to the Pashupatinath Temple to celebrate Maha Shivaratri and the Shiva Shakti Peetham nearby. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of Pashupati, Lord of the Animals. Legend has it that Lord Shiva roamed as a deer in the forests in the area. The temple is open only to Hindus with several shrines and pavilions where yogis and priests chant or meditate.

In the days before the holiday, people fill the roads around the temple and there are vendors selling red tika powder or sacred beads. The day of the holiday there is a military parade to honor Lord Shiva as well.

Unlike most Hindu festivals which take place during the day, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night. There are all night vigils and prayers representing Shiva’s ability to overcome darkness and ignorance. Many spend the night around the temple, lighting sacred fires, singing praises to Lord Shiva and keeping vigil to welcome his descent to Earth.

The official celebration begins at midnight with priests offering items to Lord Shiva in the temple. People swim in the sacred Bagmati River, carrying water in cupped palms to offer it to the stone stele which is the symbol of Lord Shiva. In the morning, sacred texts are recited until noon when people begin singing sacred songs. Some of the finest musicians and singers come to Nepal to sing praises of Shiva.

It is not unusual to see yogis or sadhus sitting naked, covered with ash or smoking marijuana during the festival. Although marijuana is illegal in Nepal, it is permitted for religious rituals during the festival. It is believed that after Shiva’s consort died, he came to the forests near the temple, smeared with ash, wearing a serpent and draped in a tiger skin. While there, he smoked marijuana which grows wild in the forests.

Maha Shivaratri is the festival celebrated by all aged people with joy . People burn firewood in the name of lord shiva and is believed to give warmth to lord shiva . This festival has not been influenced by any western culture ,peoples are giving same continuity till now as of decades before . Being in Nepal one can  must observe this festival to make memorable time, enjoy being attached with different culture and know more about it .

HOLY  (Festival of Colour )

Holy, also known as festival of colour is one of the most popular festival in Nepal .It takes place in the full moon day of Nepali  fagu Month  ( Feb to march in solar calendar) and celebrated for two days . Holy is celebrated for the victory of god over evil and welcoming of spring. This festival is celebrated mainly in Nepal and India but foreign people also participate with the great excitement and joy .People  will shower colour  to each other to express their sincere blessing and good wishes with great happiness .

The origin of Holi Festival can be traced back to “Mahabharata”, Hindu famous epic . According to the legend, King Hiranyakashipu was so arrogant and didn’t allow people to worship Lord Vishnu. However, Prince Prahlada was an ardent devotee of Vishnu and openly opposed his father. This enraged Hiranyakashipu and called his sister holika to burn the Prince on the full moon night . under the blessing of god Vishnu, Prahlada was unscathed while Holika was burned into ashes .when the prince walked out of the fire ,people sprinkled him with colorful water to express the praise of goodness and hatred of evil . since that time every year festival of colour Holy is celebrated in the memory of that day .

The festival of colour Holy is celebrated especially in India, Nepal and also immigrants all over the world .However as per the best place to experience holy, Kathmandu will never let you down! Peoples first shower colours to their loved ones and get showered too in return . This has spread love with colour among the couples . The whole Kathmandu valley is immersed in the festival atmosphere. Whether people known each other or not, they’ll be sprayed with Holy powder and colourful water . some will get a gental touch, some will across the heavy splash and other will be chased by the colour water balloons .In this case, please don’t get angry ,this is the kind of festival blessing .

In the square, Nepalis and visitors totally indulge in singing, dancing and sprinkling varieties of powders and waters. Everyone's face is filled with festive joy. Even the air turns to be colorful. At this moment, cameras, mobile phones and selfie sticks have become the essential tools to record your happy Holi. You're highly recommended to participate in this lively water fight. That kind of laughter and relax will definitely bring you back to your childhood. No need to worry about appearance and cleanness, and you can be as naughty as you want. Meanwhile, you'd better put on a white T-shirt for it looks particularly beautiful after being dyed. And you can even leave colorful fingerprints on it as memorial. This must be the best gift for your Nepal Trip .

GHODE JATRA

Ghode Jatra, meaning Horse Parade is organized in Tudikhel in Kathmandu every year. Ghode Jatra is organized on no-moon day of Chaitra Sukla Pakshya of  Lunar calendar. This parade is organized and performed by Nepal Army and Police together. This occasion falls about mid March or early April of English Calendar month.  A big horse parade takes place at Tundikhel. 

Newars of Kathmandu celebrate Ghode Jatra for several days.The idols of the gods of many localities are taken in a procession in their area in Kharpan and small Rath (portable chariots). The community organize big feast at this time.  A demon called 'Gurumumpa' is also propitiated at this time in Tundikhel. Nepal Army at Tundikhel organizes Horse race, cycle race and other completions. Army and police men perform acrobatic shows.  Idol of Gods Lumadi, Bhadrakali, Kankeshwari and Bhairav are brought to Asan chok during the day time at the main celebration and at night in Tundikhel. This day these Gods meet together every year.

It is said Ghode Jatra was organized to celebrate the victory over a demon named Tundi who reside over the field known as Tundikhel. Tundi was a big terror for the people of Kathmandu. When he died people cheered by dancing onto his body with horses. It is believed that galloping of horses on Ghode Jatra at Tundikhel keeps the demon's sprit under the ground. 

NEPALI NEW YEAR ( Bisket Jatra )

This is a major holiday in Nepal. A particularly lively place to spend the day is Bhaktapur, where the Bisket Jatra festival takes place. A huge chariot carrying the god Bhairab is pulled through the streets, ending with a chariot battle at Bhaktapur’s Khalna Tole.

On this day, children (including adult children!) offer sweets, fruits and gifts to their mothers to show their respect and gratitude. Those whose mothers have passed away visit Mata Tirtha in the west of Kathmandu, take a holy bath and make offerings in their mother’s memory.

BUDDHA JAYANTI 

Buddha Jayanti, The birth day of Gauttam Buddha  is an auspicious day for Buddhists as well as Hindus. Buddha Jayanti is observed on the full moon day in Buddhist month of Baisakh.

On this day, people perform rites such as feeding the monks. People perform Daan (act of donating goods and necessities to the monks). Budhha chantings and Mantras are played across stupas and Gumba (place for monks to dwell). Buddha Jayanti not only signifies his birth but also his attainment of Nirvana (state beyond life and death) and the abandonment of physical body as it is believed that it all happened of full moon of Baisakh.

RATO  MACHCHHENDRANATH

This is Nepal’s longest and largest festival, held in Patan. A large chariot is built on Pulchowk Road over several weeks, and finally, the god Machchhendranath is placed inside. Three days later, the chariot begins its procession all throughout Patan and wider Lalitpur, towards Bungamati. Machchhendranath is the Newar god of rain, and the festival ushers in the monsoon.

NAAG PANCHAMI

Naag  Panchami falls in the middle of mansoon .It is the hindu festival worshipping the serpent god ‘Naag’ . Pictures of Naag are posted on the doorway . Naag puja is done offering milk to the pictures assuming it as a real snake . it is believed that worshipping Naag protect against Snake bites. This festival marks respect to serpents as water guardians and ensure timely rainfall .

JANAI PURNIMA

Janai Purnima is Sacred Thread Festival. On this day, Hindu men, especially the Brahmins and Chettris perform their annual change of Janai and all who celebrates this festival put a sacred thread around their wrist. Gosaikunda, the sacred pond in high altitude, witnesses the great celebration on this day. According to the religious beliefs of Hindus, Janai reflects the identity of Brahmins and Chhetri people .

GAI JATRA

The festival’s name is Gai Jatra (literally meaning the festival of cows) and nowadays it is a fusion of three traditions that came into being in three different periods of time. The first and the oldest tradition incorporates a cult and a worship of the ancient god of death – Yamaraj. Thus, the festival marks the acceptance and celebration of death in a positive way, as an inevitable part of life.

Every family who has lost a member, in the previous year, is supposed to lead a carefully and intricately decorated cow through the city. In the absence of a cow, a boy dressed as a cow (the oldest for a lost male memberand the younger for a female) can successfully take on the role.

SHREE KRISHNA JANAMASTAMI

Krishna janamastami marks the birth of Lord Krishna, one of the eight reincarnation of lord Vishnu(one of three main god of hindu, Brahma, Bishnu, Shiva) . Krishna,  considered as  the most important character in  Hindu epic ,the Mahabharata .On this day Hindu devotees visit Krishna temples .In particular thousands of worshipper flock to Krishna temple  to pay their devotion to receive blessing . Different dairy products of great delicacies are offered to please lord Krishna . The whole atmosphere seems to be blown away by the ecstatic prayers and the small lamps are lit as a symbol of fidelity to the divinity.

HARTALIKA TEEJ   (women’s festival)

Hartalika Teej also known as “Nepal women’s festival” or ‘Women’s wishing festival”. This festival  symbolized harmony among relatives and friends . Women’s decorate themselves like a bride that day wearing red dress and pray for their husband long life .Unmarried girls pray to get best husband .Forgetting all the bad times and sorrows , with a great excitement  this festival is celebrated . The event will last for three day  including enjoying a great feast, observing rigid fasting , worshiping lord shiva ,presenting traditional dance and song . finally in the last day women’s take holy bath in the river performing many rituals,  worship lord shiva  to rinse sin happens unknowingly during menstruation . 

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