12 Major Festivals of Nepal – Dashain, Tihar, Holi, Indra Jatra
About Major Festivals Of Nepal :
‘country of joyful and colorful festivals nearly all the year round.’Twelve major festivals of Nepal, for a small Himalayan country, is also one of the richest countries in the world. In terms of great amazing bio-diversity due to its unique geographical position and altitude variation. Where the altitude ranges from 60 m above sea level to the highest point Mt. Everest at 8,848.86 m.
All within a distance of 150 km resulting in climatic changes from Sub-tropical-alpine to the Arctic.
Where more than 60 different tribal groups and 70 native languages are spoken, a blend of both Hindu and Buddhism religions. This makes Nepal one of the unique countries. One can find temples and monasteries facing close side by side.
Although nearly 75 % is populated by Hinduism, with 20 % Buddhism and the rest with a minority of Christian, Islamic, and Jainism, the major festivals celebrated in Nepal are more of Hindu religion and culture. Followed by Buddhist religious festivals held around the high Himalayan hills and mountainous regions.
12 major festivals of Nepal, one of the joyous events for all Nepalese having public holidays for celebrations. Various occasions, festivals, and religious events are celebrated across the country, as per the community wise.
Most festivals are held around public hot spots, and some big events are celebrated among families and relatives. But all festivals are great occasions that extend from a day to a week as per the Nepalese Lunar calendar.
Nepal has four main seasons spring from March to May, and autumn or fall starts from September to November. Winter begins from December to February, when all 12 major festivals take nearly all seasons of the year.
01: Indra Jatra:
Worship is dedicated to the god of rains for yielding good harvest, which is a week-long event during the Indra Jatra festival. Takes place in September months as per the Nepali and Hindu Lunar calendars). The main event of Indra Jatra, a major festival, takes place within the three main cities of Kathmandu valley.
The center of Kathmandu city begins by hoisting Lord Indri’s flag (Indra-Dhoj) at midnight, worship of Bhairava’s deities which are displayed in major public places.
Indra, the king of heaven and rains, at the end of monsoon wet times, farmers hope for a rich harvest. Where all Nepalese praise the god of rain for help and support to yield a good harvest of crops.
For a week, Kathmandu’s main Durbar Square / old palace courtyard is the main focus of the celebration. In honor of the “King of Heaven,” or Indra-Dhoj, or flag, is hoisted on the first day. The belief is that, for hundreds of centuries, Indri’s mother needed special scented flowers. But could not find them in the garden of heaven. Then Indra discovered Parijat (gladiolus) flowers around Kathmandu Valley. He picked on his mother’s behalf, but he was caught and imprisoned by the Kathmandu valley people.
When Indri’s mother came searching for her son, the people regretted what they had done. So they released Indra and dedicated the festival in respect to appease Indri’s anger. Masks and statues representing Vishnu, Bhairab, and Shiva are shown to the public Goddess Kumari. The Living goddess observes the festival from her chariot, a lively event, and occasion to observe.
02: Dashain / Dashera:
The main and major festivals of Nepal it is rather national occasions than religious events. Which lasts for more than a week till the dawn of Full Moon time, but the people get busy. For a month time preparing for the big event of Dashain or Dashera.
The festival begins in late September or in October as per the Nepal Hindu Lunar calendar. Dashain is the longest and most important festival for all Nepalese.
All people stay at home with their families for the main big events of Dashain.
The perfect time when colorful Kites decorate the clear blue sky, and every shops and market are crowded, where farmers and villagers bring their goats, buffaloes, ducks, and chickens to sell.
The domestic animals are sacrificed on the night of ‘Kala Ratri’ in respect to goddess Durga celebrating the victory over evils.
On the main auspicious day of Dashain, everyone in new attire pays homage to the older person of the family members. The younger generations receive a blessing with ‘Tika’ uncooked rice mixed with curd makes a paste to stick on the foreheads. Where the elderly person of the family also presents with some cash along with the blessing.
In the following days of the Dashain, families, and friends unites and celebrate with large feasts. Gets blessing with gifts, a major occasion for Nepalese and the most beloved festival that ends in a full moon.
03: Tihar / Diwali (festival of lights):
Another major and important festival in Nepal, especially for Hindu worshippers, is held at the end of October or early November.
The Hindu Lunar calendar marks special auspicious occasions.
Tihar, or Diwali, is the second big and major festival for all Hindu Nepalese, which is also called the festival of lights. The night glitter with candle lights and oil lamps, as well as tinsel decorations and festive-colored sweets.
The three different days are celebrated offerings to animals and birds.
The first is crow day, the second a dog’s day, and the third main event is cows and oxen days.
On the night of the 3rd, the cow’s day is dedicated to Goddess Laxmi, where every house performs a prayer. The balcony and houses are decorated with garlands and bright lamps to welcome the goddess Laxmi for wealth and fortune.
At the same time, the native Newar of Kathmandu valley celebrates an event called Maha Puja, or New Year’s Day. Related to the Nepal Era, it also falls on the days of Tihar.
The last day of Tihar is celebrated with Bhai Tika, the brothers’ blessing day, which is the end of Tihar. The ritual of breaking wall-nuts, offering garlands by sisters to their brothers, a blessing against Evil and Bad omens.
The festival of Tihar is marked by boys and girls visiting every house in the neighborhood, singing, and dancing. In return receives cash and some food and fruits to mark the auspicious night of Tihar.
04: Maghe Sankranti:
Maghe Sankranti is celebrated during the cold winter month of mid-January as per the Hindu Lunar calendar. A celebration of the harvest festival, most Nepalese of the Hindu religion take a dip in the rivers and ponds. Worship of the Sun God especially the holy dip and bathe, is to purify the self and bestow from sins.
Special puja is performed as thanksgiving for a good harvest where Nepalese consume underground edible plant roots.
Shiva Ratri is a celebration of Lord Shiva’s birth anniversary, which falls at the end of the winter months in mid-February. Sometimes takes place in the first week of March as per the Hindu calendar, a religious celebration for all Hindus.
The main event of Maha Shiva Ratri, or the night of Shiva, is known as the god of destruction. The worship and prayer are observed in the Hindu holy temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu as well as in other Shiva temples around the country, where a public holiday is observed.
Lord Shiva is one of the Hindu’s most popular gods. During Maha Shivaratri’s “Great Night.” Followers throughout the Indian sub-continent crowd the Pashupatinath temple for worship and blessings.
The devotees pray to Shiva’s image inside the temple at midnight and in long queues. For all day, to catch the glimpse of Lord Shiva’s image, which is a statue of a Phallus. Bonfires are lit around the neighborhood, where friends and relatives share food, and people enjoy two nights with music, song, and dances throughout the Pashupatinath complex and on the streets.
06: HOLI (Fagu Purnima) The festival of colors:
The Holi is the festival of colors, which is also to welcome the spring season after a cold winter. Held in March or April as per the Hindu calendar, marking the end of winter. To rejoice over the start of a fresh season of springtime, one of the best and perfect seasons to celebrate. Where all Nepalese play with different colored powder and water among each other, which is also making friends.
After being separated by wrongdoings and uniting all people of the neighborhood, friends, and families.
07: Nepali New Year A Day-Bikram Sambat around April months:
Nepalese New Year is unique to the Gregorian calendar. In Nepal, the New Year is observed in the middle of April, which is called Bikram Sambat, 57 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar, alongside Nepal Sambat. It is one of the two official calendars used in Nepal. A day is observed wonderfully with pomp and ceremony with public holidays. Musical and sports events are organized to mark the Nepalese New Year’s day of Nepal Sambat.
08: Ram Nawami / Chaite Dashain:
Celebrated the victory over evils, as per the epic story of Ramayana, who defeated Rawan. The celebration falls in April and is observed as a sacred day on which Lord Rama. Who incarnated on this earth to do away with the evils, devotees keep fasting and worship lord Rama. This is also the time of Nepalese Chaita Dashain in honor of good over evil. A long time ago, it was a major Dashain due to the wrong time of summer to celebrate. The Dashain was shifted to the autumn season, but still, Nepalese observed the festival events.
09: Buddha Jayanti:
Buddha Jayanti marks the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha, known as the ‘Light of Asia’. Falls around May, the ever-benevolent Lord Buddha was born in Nepal.
Which is the day and night of the full moon; the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and salvation are celebrated throughout the country. The day with a public holiday to visit and pay homage to monasteries and religious sites of Buddha. Swayambhunath and Bouddhanath Stupas are prepared for the oncoming festivities several days in advance.
10: Janai Purnima & Ghai Jatra:
A great Ghai Jatra is celebrated among the Newar community of Kathmandu valley. Held in the monsoon time of August as per the Hindu calendar, a colorful religious procession of cows and people in weird attire dressed as clowns painted figures of cows with a procession around the marketplaces.
Relatives of the deceased send religious groups to join the procession. The ‘Ghai’ or cow is holy to Hindus. She represents Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and guides the souls of the departed to the gates of Heaven / Paradise.
Ghai Jatra is also full of satire, jokes, fancy costumes, and colorful processions, which are the event of the day. The story and history recall that 18th-century king who rallied his people to cheer and bring a smile to his queen upon the death of their son.
The Janai Purnima celebration for all Hindu people is a change of holy threads where pilgrims and devotees visit holy sites. Especially around the Himalayas, glacial ponds are regarded as sacred. The most important holy site for Jani Purnima, or the full moon, is the Gosainkunda pond around the Langtang Himal range.
Thousands of pilgrims and devotees visit for a holy dip and a bath to cleanse the sin of a hundred lifetimes. At the same menfolk changes their holy threads into a new one, which is the restriction from wrongdoings.
11: Shree Krishna Janam Asthami:
A celebration of Lord Krishna’s birth anniversary, which falls in July or August as per the Hindu calendar. A public holiday to celebrate and visit the Hindu temple of Lord Krishna, especially in Patan / Lalitpur city. Stands a beautiful old 8th-century Krishna temple, where the crowd gathers for worship and blessing.
The Hindus observe it by remaining awake the whole night, performing religious dances, and singing in praise of Lord Krishna.
12: Teej – Festival For Women:
Although a Hindu festival, it is more important to Nepalese women and young teenage girls. Celebrated across the country for three days having a great feast and fasting at the end of the Teej day.
The event falls in August as per the Hindu calendar; Teej is the fasting festival of women in Nepal. Married women observe Teej by fasting in honor of Lord Shiva and for the long and healthy life of their husbands.
Unmarried girls also observe fast the day to get the right choice of husband. Traditional dances and songs make an important feature of Teej celebrations.
The red color is considered auspicious for women observing Teej and so most of them dress up in red or bridal clothes.