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Are you interested in traveling to Nepal on your next vacation? Do you want to experience some of the significant Nepalese festivals? This article aims to expand your understanding of Nepalese religion, culture, tradition and festivals. We provide you with valuable information on the beliefs, practices, and traditions regarding some of the best Nepalese festivals.
Nepal, home to the world’s tallest mountain Mount Everest, is a diverse country with rich biodiversity and culture. There are hundreds of ethnic communities living across the country, each with its unique traditions, cultures, beliefs and festivals.
These diverse native communities have created a vivid and vibrant culture, tradition and festivals in Nepal. They are similar in certain aspects to the culture of countries such as Tibet and India. Regardless, Nepalese culture and traditions are unique and have distinct features.
The festivals Nepalese people celebrate are also heavily influenced by the religion they follow. Some major festivals in Nepal are Dashain, Tihar, Lhosar, Maghe Sankranti, Buddha Jayanti, and Maha Shivaratri.
Popular Festivals in Nepal
The Nepal festival reflects the people’s diverse culture, traditions and beliefs. Nepal has had several festivals, ranging from cultural, religious, and social celebrations.
Nepalese festivals are celebrated enthusiastically and are an excellent opportunity to experience Nepalese culture and traditions. Each festival has its unique significance and is accompanied by traditional food, colorful decorations, and various rituals.
One of the significant Nepal festivals is Dashain, celebrated nationwide by most ethnic communities. The festival is celebrated to mark the victory of Rama over Ravana. Additionally, it symbolized the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura. In contrast, the Hindus celebrate Dashain to commemorate the victory of good over evil.
Dashain is also referred to as Vijayadashami and is celebrated for fifteen days. Each of the days is celebrated in a unique way reflecting the Hindu custom and traditions. During this time, people visit temples across the country and offer gods and goddesses flowers and fits.
Dashain’s tenth day is the most auspicious, also known as Vijayadashami. On this occasion, the older members of the family offer tika (rice colored with red crimson powder) and jamara to their descendants and relatives. During this ceremony, the elders also grant blessings and small amounts of money for prosperity.
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Apart from Dashain, Tihar is yet another critical Nepalese Festival. The festival is also known as the festival of light and flowers and falls in November. It lasts for five days in total. The festival is believed to have originated from the mythical story of Yama, and Yamuna, his sister. Each auspicious day of Tihar reflects an aspect of the story with its distinct set of rituals and ceremonies such as:
Day One/ Kaag Tihar: The first day is known as the day of a crow or “Kaag Tigar,” during which the people of Nepal offer food and hold religious ceremonies for the crows.
Day Two/ Kukur Tihar: The second day is the day of the dog or “Kukur Tihar.” It is one of the renowned festivals which has earned respect from all over the world. On this day, the dogs are worshiped by offering flower garlands and delicious foods.
Day Three/ Laxmi Puja: From this day onwards, the festival of Tihar becomes more vibrant and colorful. People of all ages gather together to perform traditional songs and dances known as “deusi/bhailo” to offer blessings and prosperity.
The day symbolizes the significance of cows in the Hindu religion. During the occasion, people honor the cows by praying and offering them flower garlands. Further, in the evening, the houses are decorated with lamps and flowers. People clean their houses and pray to Goddess Laxmi, thanking her for the fortune bestowed on them.
Day Four/ Goru or Govardhan Puja: Similar to cows, bulls are an important animal to the Hindus. Bulls are regarded to be sacred animals as they help farmers to fulfill the agriculture needs of the people during the ancient times.
So, to honor them, the bulls are worshiped by putting tika and offering beautiful flower garlands. Additionally, the day also marks the new year for the Newari community. The Newars will gather together to celebrate the occasion and perform Mha Puja to purify and empower their souls.
Day Five/ Bhai Tika: Bhai Tika is the last day of Tihar and. During the occasion, sisters bless longevity and prosperity to their brothers by putting multi-colored tika on their forehead and offering splendid flower garlands. The siblings also exchange gifts and foods to one another known as Shaguns.
Janai Purnima, also known as Raksha Bandhan in Nepal, falls in August and is celebrated by the Nepalese people in various ways. It is one of the main festivals in Nepal with a massive religious significance. During the occasion, pilgrims and devotees visit sacred lakes of Nepal, such as Panch Pokhari, Gosaikunda and Jata Pokhari. Besides, the devotees also gather in the Bagmati river at Pashupatinath temple.
One of the essential rituals during the occasion is the replacement of the janai, a cotton strand worn by Hindu males. On this day, they wear a new one blessed and given by a priest. In addition, the priest ties cotton strands around people’s wrists to protect themselves from negative influence, which gives the festival its name, “Raksha Bandhan.”
Apart from Janai replacement of Brahmin caste, the Newari communities also celebrate the Janai Purnima festival. They prepare a special dish called Quanti for this occasion. The Quanti is made from a mixture of nine different sprouted beans and is considered a nutritious and healthy dish. It is also a symbol of the arrival of spring and new beginnings, as it is prepared using sprouted beans.
Maghe Sankranti is one of the major festivals in Nepal, which falls in the month of Magh. The festival is celebrated as the beginning of the month of Magh and the end of the winter season. On this occasion, people take a bath in rivers as they believe it will wash away their sins and purify their soul.
So, people throughout Nepal take a bath in rivers such as Gandaki, Koshi, Trishuli and Narayani. Further, the festival is also celebrated by making eating foods like laddu, til ko laddu, chaku, ghee, and yomari. These special treats are also shared among friends, family and relatives.
Maghe Sankranti is also celebrated by the Tharu and Magar community in Nepal. The festival marks the new year of the Tharu community and they celebrate it by performing traditional singing and dancing. They also eat foods like rice balls, ghee, chaku, tuberous roots and yam.
Whereas, the magar celebrate the occasion by inviting their married daughters and relatives to their home. They sing and dance to enjoy the occasion and share delicacies among one another such as sweet potatoes, yam, home made pickles and meat items.
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Gaijatra is a unique Nepalese festival, a fusion of comedy and reflection of life and death. People who have lost their family members or friends commence a funeral procession by wearing costumes similar to a cow and other comical characters.
The ritual sends a message that no individual is far from death, which no one would miss or avoid. The primary theme of the festival is that death is inevitable, and all of us should face the bitter reality at some point in our life.
Also, in Nepal Bhasa, Gaijatra is known as “Saaparu”. It is believed that to console his queen, who was in agony at the untimely passing of his son prince Chakrabartendra, King Pratap Malla introduced Gaijatra.
The king ordered the families who had lost their loved ones to parade to the palace. Pratap Malla consoled his wife that the death was a universal truth and established the unique tradition to cheer his grieving wife and families who have lost their loved ones.
The act made the queen realize that other people like her are dealing with the same grief. It helped the queen ease her pain. The festival is an excellent opportunity for travelers like you to explore Kathmandu’s rich heritage and culture. Immerse yourself in the great and entertaining ways of celebrating this sacred Nepalese festival.
Buddha Jayanti or also known as Buddha Purnima is one of the important festivals for Buddhist followers. The festival commemorates the enlightenment and death of lord Gautam Buddha.
Buddha, or the “Light of Asia,” was born in Kapilvastu, Lumbini, Nepal, in 563 BC. It is regarded as an auspicious day for Buddhist devotees. On this occasion, a holy procession takes place in the morning at Lumbini. It is followed by cultural events and at night devotees gather around the Maya Devi Temple and decorate it with lamps, flowers and offer their prayers.
On this day, you can visit religious sites like Boudhanath, and Swayambhunath and other monasteries in Kathmandu to experience and immerse yourself in the sacred rituals.
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Maha Shivaratri means “Night of the Shiva” and falls in the month of March. It is one of the most significant festivals in Nepal. On this day, devotees of Lord Shiva from all over the world visit the Pashupatinath temple to pay tribute.
You can visit the temple during the festival to witness the crowd of naked sadhus and thousands of worshippers. During the festival, Hindu fast and worship lord shiva with several puja items. Further, devotees stay up all night performing aarti, puja, sadhana and meditation to bestow peace and positive vibration in their life.
Fagu Purnima (Holi)
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Fagu Purnima, or Holi, is the festival of colors celebrated in India and Nepal. The lively Nepalese festival is celebrated by playing with water and colors. The occasion signifies the death of the demon “Holika.” The demon tried to kill Prahlad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, but she was burnt to ashes while Prahlad remained unharmed.
Holi also signifies the arrival of spring as the days start to get warmer and several lush vegetation and flowers bloom across the country. People of all ages and castes come together during this day and enjoy the occasion with delicious food, drink, dance and music.
Balloons are filled with colorful water and are thrown at one another. Also, people playfully paint one another with colors, pour water from buckets, and enjoy the blissful moment. The festival is celebrated in the hilly region on the full moon day. It is celebrated the next day in the Terai region of Nepal and India.
Teej is an important festival for women in Nepal. It commonly falls in August or September. On this occasion, women wear colorful red dresses and celebrate by dancing and singing folk Nepali songs.
The festival honors the occasion when Goddess Parvati won Lord Shiva through extensive fasting and meditation. So, women gather in temples, perform puja, and pray for their partner’s longevity, prosperity, and happiness. Also, they believe fasting and praying to Lord Shiva will help them achieve a good husband.
The Nepalese festival is concluded at night when the women gather to sing and dance to musical tunes of Nepali folk music.
Mani Rimdu Festivals
The Sherpas of Nepal, who live in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, have their own distinct culture and tradition. One of the significant Nepalese festivals celebrated by the Sherpa in the mountain region of Nepal is the Mani Rimdu Festival.
It is a unique Nepal festival and is celebrated for nine days. It falls during the 10th lunar month in the Tibetan calendar or between October and November. The month is regarded to be the best season to trek in the Everest region. As a result, it can be an excellent opportunity for travelers like you to witness and experience the culture and tradition of the Sherpa community.
Mani Rimdu is celebrated in the Tengboche Monastery in the Everest region. It falls on the main trek route of the Everest Base Camp Trek. So, apart from trekking, you can experience the rituals of the Buddhist monks and receive blessings from them for successful expeditions as well.
We recommend the best Nepalese trekking companies and travel agencies that offer expert guidance and support for these treks. These companies are staffed by local guides who possess an in-depth understanding of the country’s geography, culture, and traditions, which can greatly enhance your trekking experience.
Nepal has many festivals that are celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy throughout the year. Here are ten of the most popular festivals in Nepal:
• Janai Purnima
• Buddha Jayanti
• Bisket Jatra
• Gai Jatra
• Indra Jatra
Nepal is a culturally rich country with a diverse range of festivals celebrated throughout the year. It is estimated that there are over 50 festivals celebrated in Nepal annually.
Dashain, also known as Vijaya Dashami, is arguably the most famous festival in Nepal. It is celebrated over a period of ten days
The main festival of Nepal is Dashain. It is the most widely celebrated festival in the country and is considered the most important festival in Nepal.