"Your Holiday Planner for Nepal Adventure"
Nepal is a land of many festivals with rich cultural heritage. More than 90% of Nepalese festivals have their origin in the religious practises of the many different ethnic groups that live here. Such is the diversity of these groups and there are so many festivals, that you can often see one happening and ask a local person what it is for and they can only tell you which cultural group has the festival but not what it is for.
This diversity can also be seen in the fact that the country has a range of calendars; including two solar calendars and three lunar ones making it difficult to predict many of the religious festival dates! The official Nepali calendar is 365 days, but is 57 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar. Religious festivals follow the lunar calendar, while national festivals have fixed dates.
Read on to find out about some of the major festivals…
Lhosar: Sherpas organize folk songs and dances on this occasion. These dances can be seen in Khumbu, Helambu and other northern regions of Nepal and also at Bouddanath in Kathmandu.
Maha Shivaratri: or the Night of Lord Shiva is observed in February-March. It is celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva. A great religious fair takes place in the Pashupatinath Temple and thousands of people from all over Nepal and India flock the temple to worship Lord Shiva.
New Year’s Day: The Nepalese New Year’s Day usually falls during the month of April. The day is observed as a national holiday with people celebrating with great enthusiasm.
Ghodejatra: Known as the festival of horses this is one of the most exciting festivals of Kathmandu. Horse race and other sports take place at Tundikhel on this day. In other parts of the city various deities are carried shoulder-high on palanquin (khat) with the accompaniment of traditional music.
Buddha Jayanti: Celebrated on the full moon day, the Lord’s Buddha’s birth and enlightenment are applauded throughout the Valley with celebrations for Buddha Jayanti. Swayambhu and Bouddanath Stupas are prepared for the oncoming festivities. People reach the stupas before dawn, walk around them and give offerings to the many Buddha images.
Bhoto Jatra: This is the biggest cultural event at the city of Patan. The wheeled chariot of a deity known as Red Machchhendranath is pulled through the city of Patan.
Dumji: Is celebrated in all Sherpa settlements with dancing being the main form of festivity.
Gaijatra (cow festival): Is a carnival that lasts eight days. Dancing, singing, comedy and anything that causes mirth and laughter are its highlights.
Indrajatra: One of the most important festivals for people of Kathmandu. The festival lasts for eight days with the chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, being taken out in procession through the main streets of Kathmandu. The festival is specially noted for the echoes of drums and dancing feet of the masked dancers every evening.
Dashain or Durga Puja: This is Nepal’s most important and longest festival. For many Nepalese, Dashain is a season to dress and eat well and visit with loved ones. According to legend, the bloodthirsty Goddess Durga conquered evils on the Dashain day. A huge number of animal sacrifices take place during the festival in temples and in homes to please the Goddess Durga. The final day of the festival is known as `Tika’.
Tihar (Deepawali): is the year’s most beautiful festival with people putting lights all over their houses and shops to lure ‘Laxmi’, the goddess of wealth. Tihar is celebrated for five days. Houses are illuminated at night and special sweets of different varieties are prepared for the festival. Newari New Year’s Day falls on the fourth day of Tihar and is celebrated with great enthusiasm.