Besides the high Mountains, Nepal is very famous for the land of festivals where every year more than 50 festivals are celebrated. All the national festivals have fixed dates but the religious festivals are set by astrologers following the lunar calendar. All the events are celebrated with the same enthusiasm in large numbers which is the best part of the festivals in Nepal. It is used to be as entertainment with their passion for hundreds of years ago.
List of festivals in Nepal
In Nepal, it is called “Navavarsha” as the official almanac begins from the first day of the first month Baisakh practiced as a Nepali New Year. Usually, it starts in the second week of April. People celebrate this new year festival socializing in different ways like picnics and getting-together. This is also a National holiday.
Lhosar (Tibetan New Year):
The Tibetans, Sherpas and Manangays, and some of the Tamang and Gurungs who live in high altitudes of Nepal celebrate this festival as a new year in February. In Kathmandu-Swayambhunath and Boudhanath are decorated with colorful prayer flags and people perform their traditional dances wearing new clothes and jewelry exchanging their gifts. The festival begins with the cleaning of the house thoroughly everything in it. Each day is marked by a ritual like the throwing away of evil on the first day and drinking alcoholic beverages is a part of the Lhosar Festival. Hence everyone will be very cheerful at this festival. The monks perform rituals in every monastery for the good of all mankind and hold ceremonies to get rid of the evil spirits from the earth.
This is called Shree Panchami as well as the birthday of Saraswati. Saraswati is the Goddess of Wisdom in Hinduism. The students and other people worship the goddess Saraswati to gain knowledge and wisdom with their deep faith. People celebrate the Saraswati Puja or Shree Panchami is the birthday of Goddess Saraswati. Students worship their pen, pencil, copy, and Book on this auspicious day to please the Goddess and expect good luck and favor in their studies so they become more wise and knowledgeable. People also throng around the idol of Goddess Saraswati, especially in Swayambhunath, and offer flowers, sweets, fruits, etc. On this day, small children are taught to read and write and people write on the stones and slabs with chalks and pencils. This day which falls between January/February is regarded as a very auspicious day for marriages too as it is believed that Goddess Saraswati herself blesses the couples. Normally it is the astrologers who fix the marriage date and time in Nepal.
This is one of the major festivals in Nepal. Literally, it means “ Night of Lord Shiva” falls between late February - early March. In the Hindu religion, Lord Shiva is the most powerful and kind God. So the people worship very much Lord-Shiva. One of the holiest shrines of Hindu people in Kathmandu is Pashupatinath Temple- so thousands and thousands of people gather here and worship Lord Shiva on this occasion. He is the most worshipped God in the Hindu religion. “Pashupatinath” literally means “the Lord of animals” as Lord Shiva is considered as the guardian and protector of everything that exists in the Himalayan Kingdom. On this holy day, Sadhu (Hindu holy men) and other devotees take bath in the holy river-Bagmati early in the morning and fast for the whole day. Devotees and sadhus smolder marijuana as believed to please Lord Shiva which is legal for this occasion.
This is called the “Phagu” festival as well as play with colors and water extending their friendship and love among them between February-March in Nepal. This is the celebration day of killing Holika a female demon who together with her king brother encouraged her to kill his son Prahlad, a passionate devotee of Lord Vishnu. People make different colors and enjoy throwing colors and water balloons at each other.
This festival is a magnificent horse parade perform at Tundikhel between March-April. On this occasion, there will be a grand horse parade and horse race, and many other exciting sports activities performed by the Army in the presence of Priminister and other officials. Hundreds of thousands of people will be gathered to see and enjoy this festival at Tundikhe in Kathmandu.
Every year in Nepal Buddha’s birth anniversary is celebrated on full moon day in late April or early May. Which is also the day He achieved enlightenment and also the day he attained nirvana. Buddha was born in Lumbini in south Nepal more than 2500 years ago. On this occasion, people gather at Boudhanath, Swayambhunath, and many other Monasteries to worship Lord Buddha. Many people come to visit Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps and worship Lord Buddha. In all three cities; Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur, images of Buddha, prayer flags, and banners are carried by the people through the streets in processions.
Gai Jatra(Cow Festival):
This is called the cow festival celebrated every year in late August or early September. This festival was started to perform by the King named Pratap Malla who had lost his son. Hoping to reassure his Queen who was overcome with grief, he ordered his people who had lost a member of their family during the past year to bring out a procession in their honor. He hoped the queen would realize that she was not alone in her grief. Many people are seen leading a cow to bring the procession, hence the name is Gai Jatra. Nepal used to be a Hindu country so the cow used to be a sacred and national animal of Nepal. Hindu people do not eat cow meat, it is regarded as a Goddess. Hence this is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal as it is full of absurdity, pleasantry, contempt, and sadness too and has great fun as well. On this occasion, it is officially authorized to Joke and satire to anybody in the country. Widely celebrated in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan.
Lord Krishna is the 8th incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the birth anniversary of Lord Krishna celebrate in August-September on the seventh day of the dark lunar fortnight. Many Hindu and Buddhist people go to the Krishna temple at Patan to worship which is a very ancient Krishna temple. People worship and pray and offer flowers, food, sweets, and chant hymns in the name of Lord Krishna. There is a procession of trucks with portraits of Lord Krishna. People come to the temple from everywhere with musical instruments singing devotional songs praising Lord Krishna the whole day and night. Mainly temple of Lord Krishna at Patan Durbar Square becomes the main focus of the celebration. People decorate the temple with oil wick lamps and incense keep in flames the whole night with the devotees. It is said and believes that Lord Krishna was born at Midnight and raised by a cowherd, hence women shower their idol with butter, milk, and sweets. A large number of people keep worshipping Lord Krishna until the next early morning.
This is a very special day for a Hindu married woman for her husband to celebrate in August-September. Women are dressed up in a very beautiful red Sari and they sing and dance together everywhere in Nepal at this festival. All women take fast and pray to Lord Shiva for the protection, long life, health, and successful life of their husbands and their families.
In Nepal, this festival celebrates in the name of Lord Indra – the God of Rain and also the king of Heaven(Gods) by both Hindu and Buddhists in late August-early September, and this festival last for eight days singing, dancing with mask, and rejoicing with the chariot of Kumari- the living Goddess is taken with the salute through the main street of Kathmandu. Indra Jatra is one of the most stunning festivals and has much folklore intermingled with the acts of various deities. People make a ceremonial flag-pole at Durbar square which is believed This takes place on the twelfth day of the waxing moon. The pole is believed to represent a similar flag- pole given to Lord Indra by the God, Vishnu. At Indra Chowk, the Akash Bhairav mask is brought out of the Bhairav temple and placed in front of the temple. It is then worshipped and decorated with colorful flowers and offers food, fruits, and sweets. Legend is that Lord Krishna cut off the head of a Kirati King( during the war of Maha-Bharat, five thousand years ago) when he showed to fight for the rival side. It is said that his head flown all the way to Kathmandu valley. Since that time his head represents the one which is a heavy blue mask kept in the temple. During the festival, People take this mask and show it to the public in the street and perform their dances wearing a different type of mask. This dance is called the Lakhe dance. The chariot procession of the Living Goddess-Kumar is another essential part of this festival. Kumari visits the street sitting on her chariot and she is worshipped every place by the people.
Dashain (Bijaya Dasami):
This is the longest and biggest auspicious festival in Nepal celebrate for 15 days by all cast and communities and faith throughout the country from late September – early October. At this festival, people worship Goddess Durga numerously in all her manifestations. All the family members come together and celebrate the festival with ritual ceremonies every day. Many animals are sacrificed during this period of Dashain to celebrate this festival. People enjoy their time drinking, feasting, and gambling, and visiting all their relatives.
This is the second biggest festival after Dashain is known as the fire festival celebrated in October-November. On this occasion, people worship Laxmi the Goddess of wealth and decorate their houses, and lit candles, oil lamps, and more other lights illuminate the places. It is believed that on this day, the Goddess-Laxmi visits all the houses that have been well lit; hence the tradition of lighting oil-wick lamps. The Festival lasts for five days and people worship cows, crows, and dogs as well and are honored by garland, vermilion, and delicious food. On the last day of the Tihar brother's day is called “Bhai Tika” as well, sisters put tika on their brother's forehead and bless them for his protection, long, happy and prosperous life and Every brother offers a special gift to their sister. They go door to door and sing a festival song.
Chhat is one of the most important festivals for the people who live especially in the Terai region. At this festival, people worship the Sun God. At the beginning of this festival, people prepare a variety of foodstuffs to offer the Sun God as well as to use after a day-long fast. All the devotees gather on the bank of the river to celebrate this festival and pray to the Sun God. The first day this festival starts in the late afternoon when sunset begins then all the devotees start offering different types of fruits and foods on the bank of the river and pray to Sun God then put their lighted oil-wick lamps on the river and make it float over the surface of the river. Devotee gathers the following day again before the sun rises and as soon as the sun rises they start to take a bath entering into the river water and keep praying to Sun God and turning several times into the water. There will be a huge gathering on the bank of the river and all the devotees take the blessing food and fruits to distribute to the family and friends.
Bisket Jatra (Festival):-
This festival is celebrated at Bhaktapur during the Nepali New Year in mid-April. There will be two chariots one for the God Bhairav and the other for his consort-Bhadrakali known as Bhairavi. This festival lasts for nine days visiting different shrines of the goddess Durga. There will be a huge crowd to celebrate and watch this festival. The 70 ft pole with two large banners of cloth hanging from the top crosspiece is erected near the open shrine of Bhadrakali. During the period of this festival two Chariot are brought up to Bhadrakali. This is a fascinating contest between the upper city and a lower city of Bhaktapur pulling Chariot to be the first in position.
The Seto Machhendranath festival takes place in Kathmandu. This chariot with a long wooden tower is constructed at Durbar Marg near the statue of King Mahendra. The Seto Machhendranath chariot is brought to the Machhendranath temple at Jana Bahal near Indra Chowk in Kathmandu. In this festival, the chariot is pulled up to Lagankhel in the Lalitpur district. Every place where the chariot stops people gather around and worship the deity. Chariot is then carried in a procession back to the temple at Jana Bahal in Kathmandu.
Rato Machhendranath Festival:
This festival was held in Patan in late April-early May. Rato Machhendranath is the God of rain and mercy known as the god Lokeshwar as well. During this festival, a large chariot is constructed at Patan and a mass number of people pull the chariot from place to place for more than a month to reach its final destination. Legend says that in ancient times Lord Machhendranath once resided in Assam in India then a religious king and his two officials with Gorakhnath from Kathmandu went all the way to Assam in India to bring him back to Kathmandu. They used tantric mantras and they changed Machhendranath into a bee and brought him back to Nepal putting him in a traditional bud vase. Hence Machhendranath is also called a Bungadeo. Later people built a town in his name called Bungamati and built a special temple also in the name of Lord Machhendranath at Bungmati in Lalitpur. During this festival, people make two chariots and demonstrate, the second for Minnath, son of Machhendranath. A large number of an enthusiastic crowd, with Newari musicians, participate in this festival. All the devotees who are gathered to celebrate the festival will be blessed by the Living Goddess-“Kumari”. Wherever chariot stops and halt the night devotees come and worship the God Machhendranath offering flowers, food, fruits, sweets, rice expecting good luck, and rain for its cultivation. People enjoy playing music and perform dances, sacrifice animals, and share food among them. On the final day of the festival, the Bhoto (an ornamented waistcoat) of Machhendranath is displayed to the huge crowd that gathers at Jawalakhel, Lalitpur. This festival is also popularly known as Bhoto Jatra.
Mani Rimdu is a Buddhist festival that is celebrated at Tengboche Monastery in the Everest region by Sherpa people. Mani means prayers to God of compassion, Rim means the small red pellets, Du means blessings. Monks from the Tengboche monastery perform dances wearing different types of masks and pray for the good of all mankind. These masked dances performed by the monks are the most interesting and attractive to the tourist. This festival lasts for three days. 1. First day of the festival monks’ blessings, 2. The second day of the festival – monks’ masked dances and 3. Bondfire and blessings. Tengboche is called a hidden valley also which is situated at the alleviation of 3800 meters on the way to Everest Base Camp route surrounded by the beautiful snow-capped mountains. You can see Mount Everest also from here and many other beautiful mountains. Every year there will be a large number of people come to see this festival both local and tourist. Here is the Mani Rimdu festival trek to witness it.