The home of 126 castes-ethics groups and where 129 languages are spoken certainly doesn’t hold back when it comes to celebrating and treasuring festivals of every ethnic group and religion. The rich in astonishing natural beauty and resources are almost celebrating some kind of festival throughout the year. You could almost literally say that there are as many festivals in Nepal as much as there are days in a year, this beautiful land celebrates so many festivals throughout the year that it is hard to include every festival in the list.
So, here we have prepared a handful list among the tons of festivals the country celebrates. Make sure to check out the interesting and delightful culture, traditions, and festivals of this fascinating country.
1. The Dashain (Bijaya Dashami) - दशै (विजया दशमी)
It is one of the major festivals the country celebrates, this is also the longest and biggest festivals of Nepalese people that last for 15 days. In this festival, the people worship the nine avatars of the goddess Durga who was victorious against the demon king Maisasur. The festival which is celebrated in summer-fall of the year is initiated from the first day Ghatasthapana declaring the grand start, following special days like Phoolpati on the 7th, Maha Ashtami on the 8th, Navami on the 9th and the grand day Biajay Dhasami on the 10th day; the festival is concluded on the 15th day--Purnima.
Dashain is also the festival of family, spending quality time with each other, visiting relatives, collecting blessings and well wishes from the elder members of the family. In the festival, there is a practice of putting Red Tika and Jamara with the blessings of Goddess Durga on the forehead of young members of the family or relatives, the older members of the family put tika on the young ones with good grace and warm wishes.
Among the populace, the Dashain is quite special for the young people, as in the festival there is a practice of buying a new pair of clothes, flying the colorful kites competing with friends, enjoying a special kind of swing called ‘Linge Ping’ built using four strong bamboos as pillars, and, not to forget, tons of mouthwatering meat cuisines and platter filled with sweet dishes.
2. Festival of Lights - Tihar (तिहार)
Tihar which is also known as ‘Deepawali’ is another big festival that is celebrated in the country which lasts for 5 days. This major festival is celebrated in the short gap of 21 days after celebrating Dashain and each day is dedicated to a different religious and cultural event. On the first day of festival Kaag Tihar, people feed and worship crows; the crows are considered messengers of the death god ‘Yamaraj’ in the Hindu religion. Similarly, on the second day, people worship dogs for their dedication and loyalty, the dogs are also considered the incarnation of ‘Bhairab’ in Hinduism. The third day of this festival is known as Gai Tihar as well Laxmi puja, this day is of high importance during the festival; the people worship cows in the morning and decorate their house with different kinds of lighting welcoming the goddess of wealth Laxmi in their house. There is also a ritual of playing ‘Vaili’ (भैलि) in the Hindu community and blessing the houses along the way. The fourth day is Govardhan puja, it is also a day dedicated to playing ‘Deusi’ which is quite similar to ‘Vaili’. And, the festival is concluded on the fifth day ‘Bhai Tika’; it is the day when sisters put seven colors special Tikas on their brother’s forehead thanking for their love and protection as well as to wish them a long healthy life.
During this festival, the whole streets and houses are decorated with spectacular lights; you can also hear the sound of firecrackers and yummy sweets in every corner of the country.
3. Holi, The Festival of Colour (होली)
This festival is celebrated every year in the country for two days playing with colors and water. Holi which is also known as ‘Fagu Purnima’ is celebrated on the arrival of the spring in the county and also to honor the defeat of Hindu demoness Holika who tried to defeat Lord Vishnu.
The people of the Hilly region celebrate it first and the next day people of the Terai belt celebrate it; a large gathering of friends and family, savoring the delicious food and sweets and dancing is what makes this festival quite spectacular. Although the country has a multi-religion population, you will find it astonishing that the festival of color doesn’t demand any kind of religious commitments; you will find the whole nation celebrating the joyful festival of color and dancing in the music of celebration. On this day, you will find people’s faces covered with different arts and brights colors; you will also find children having fun playing with colorful water balloons and water guns. Also, in the major cities like Basantapur, Patan, and Bhaktapur, you will find several musical festivals to play Holi and special color pools, which draws the attention of the young generation.
4. Maha Shivaratri (महा शिवरात्रि)
The festival celebrates worshipping Lord Shiva is another primary festival in the Hindu religion of Nepal. This festival takes place during the fall in February-March, it is celebrated in the remembrance of the victory over darkness.
During this festival all the sadhus and monks who are devotees of Lord Shiva gather in the Lord Shiva’s temples, particularly in Nepal the premises of Pashupatinath temple is of high regard among the devotees. In the vicinity of Pashupatinath temple, you will find these sadhus meditating and chanting the Lord Shiva’s name. There is also the custom of using marijuana as the ‘prasad’ of the Lord; it is believed that smoking marijuana was one of his favorite habits. So, on this day the consumption of weed is legal, you will also find several items like sweets and special drinks called ‘Ghotta’ mixed with weed on a special day.
Lord Shiva is one of the supreme gods in Hinduism so; definitely, the celebration is also very grand. The devotees fast on this day and visit temples of Lord Shiva; the temples are decorated with lamps and the figures of Lord Shiva is washed with holy water. During the night, a big bonfire is lit in the name of Lord Shiva and devotees gather around the fire as it is believed that the special fire has healing properties.
5. Gai Jatra (गाई जात्रा)
Gai Jatra which can be translated into the festival of cows is a unique festival and has a great presence in the Newar community. This festival is celebrated between August and September; it is believed that the cows are guides to take the deceased to the god of death ‘Yamaraj’, so the cows are worshipped and decorated with great enthusiasm leading them through the streets of the city. There is also a ritual in the Newar community that the family of the deceased person distributes food and fruits to other people.
This unique festival is believed to ease the sorrow and grief of the departing soul; people also join rallies so they can see that they are not the only ones grieving the loss and makes it easier to understand that it is a cycle of life.
The king of Kathmandu Pratap Malla started this tradition, his queen was grieving a lot in the loss of their son; so the king made a request among his people that anyone who has born loss of someone in the year to celebrate this festival. And, upon seeing the mass population who had lost someone from their family, the queen came in terms with the cycle of life.
6. Indra Jatra (ईद्न जात्रा)
The festival celebrated between September and October is an exciting celebration dedicated to worshipping the Lord of the Rain--’Indra’. During this time, the monsoon season is ending in the country and the celebration of this Jatra is believed to bring good luck and a good harvest in the coming years. According to Hindu mythology, Indra is one of the major gods who ride white elephants and is in charge of rain and thunder. So, the country whose major population used to depend on agriculture celebrates this festival in a grand way.
This festival lasts for eight days; the Hindus and Buddhist religion people unite together to celebrate this festival in a grand way. One of the key attractions of this festival is that you get a chance to see the living goddess of Kathmandu who is also known as ‘Kumari’. Similarly, Indra Jatra is also quite famous for the masked dance of demons and devils which is also known as ‘Lakhe Dance’, including the displaying of god and goddess. The major dance forms like Majipa Lakhey, Devi Pykhan, and Sawa Bhakku are quite popular in Indra Jatra.
7. Maghe Sankranti (माघे सङ्क्रान्ति)
Maghe Sankranti which is also known as ‘Makar Sankranti’ is celebrated in January and according to the Nepali calendar this festival falls on the 1st day of the Magh month. This festival is celebrated throughout the country in high spirits as this festival indicates the end of the cold winter.
In this festival, people take bath in rivers and ponds before eating anything, the people later treat themselves with many sweet delicacies like laddu, haluwa, kheer, as well as boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, etc. This festival is believed to bring better weather, good health and good fortune. Also, the Magh month is dedicated to worshipping Lord Shiva the whole month in the Hindu community, it is also believed that a Hindu should at least visit one temple of Lord Shiva during this whole month, people also start reading the holy book ‘Swasthani’ which should be concluded in next Purnima.
Similarly, the first day of Magh is also of great importance in the Terai belt of the country, especially in the Tharu community. The people of Tharu community celebrate this festival by getting together with family, friends and relatives; they attend the big Melas together getting dressed up with the traditional Tharu dress; eating, drinking and dancing together to celebrate this festival.
8. Buddha Jayanti (बुद्ध जयन्ती)
The national Buddhist festival of Nepal is dedicated to celebrating the birth of Lord Budhha who was born in Lumbini. This festival is celebrated in a magnificent way decorating the pilgrims and statues of Lord Budhha with lights and flags, the Buddhist from all over the world gather in the birthplace of Lord Buddha to celebrate this wonderful day.
Also, inside Kathmandu valley, the major Buddhist temples like Boudhanath and Swaymbhunath are attractively decorated, you can also see monks gathering in these holy sites to offer prayer to the Lord Budhha and you will hear chanting echoing in the whole area. In addition to that, the holy Thangka is also, put on display on the southern wall of the Swayambhunath temple on the special day. This festival is also of high importance in the Hindu community, the people just consume a vegetarian diet on this day and stay away from dan dharma; people dedicate their day on dan dharma (दान धर्म) on this day. Also, in the Newar Buddhist community, there is a tradition of carrying the statue in a ‘rath’ and taking it throughout the street in the cities followed by the cultural Newari musical item Dhime Baja and Basuri.
9. Chhath Parva (छट पर्व)
Chhath is one of the major festivals in the Terai community of the country, the women of the Terai community worship the Sun and Shasthi Devi who is also known as Chhathi Miaya in this festival. This festival is celebrated between the months of March and April; this festival takes place on the seventh day after the end of the festival of light, Tihar.
In the Hindu community, the Sun is considered a god and it is believed that the sun has healing properties and blesses the prosperity and long life to the devotees at the festival. It is also believed that devotees can achieve the purity of both the physical and spiritual levels if they take part in the festival. The Chhath Parva is celebrated for three days and the major cities like Birgunj, Janakpur, and Biratnagar celebrate it in a grand way. You will also witness the devotees from India also come to worship the birthplace of Sita(also known as Janaki) in Janakpur. This festival is celebrated near ponds, lakes, and waters; the female members of the family offer the prayers to the sun by standing on the water surface for hours; this is truly a magnificent sight to witness if you are close by.
10. Lhosar (लाेसार)
The Lhosar which is also known as the Tibetian New Year is one of the most popular festivals in the country which is celebrated on different days by the people of different communities. The people of Gurung community celebrate the ‘Tamu Lhosar’ which falls between December- January, and 15th Poush according to Nepali calendar, similarly, the Tamang and Yolmo community celebrate the ‘Sonam Lhosar’ which is celebrated in the first day of the new moon in the month of Magh. And, the Tibetian and Sherpa communities celebrate the Gyalbo Lhosar; this Lhosar is celebrated on the 29th day of the 12-month lunar calendar and takes place for three days.
The New Year is celebrated by getting together with family, friends and relatives exchanging warm wishes, gifts, and enjoying the traditional dances relishing tasty-delightful dishes. People also enjoy the beautiful mask dance of the festival and serve a special kind of drink ‘Changkol’ which is made from Chhang, a local Tibetian drink quite similar to the taste of beer. Further, the families also pray together to God and Goddess and prepare delicious dishes for them. The major attraction of this festival is the decorations of monasteries and pagodas with colorful prayer flags.
11. Festival of Women - Teej (तिज)
This is another significant festival in the Hindu community; this festival is celebrated by women praying for the long life of their husbands. This festival is celebrated by unmarried females also, wishing for a husband with good qualities.
Teej is celebrated worshipping Lord Shiva; you will find a lot of crowd in line to worship Lord Shiva in the premises of the Pashupatinath temple on this special day. This major festival is celebrated in three days total; the first day the ‘Darr day’ where the females have a heavy meal preparing for the fasting next day, and, on the second day, the females fast-- ‘Barta’ with not even drinking water for the whole day, they have first sip of water after washing husband’s feet and putting few drops of it in their mouth. Similarly, the unmarried ladies drink water after worshipping ‘Tulsi’ and putting a few drops of it inside their mouth. They don’t eat any meals and just consume fruits, milk, and ghee during the night on the second day. On the third day, the females break their Barta after worshipping the goddess Parvati, the significant other of Lord. This festival is also believed to bring long-lasting marital happiness, the well-being of spoShivause as well as family and children, also, purification of soul and body.