Festivals

List of festivals in Nepal

Contents

Main festivals

The Machchhindra Jatra

The holy Bagmati

This historically significant festival celebrates Machchhindra, the guardian deity of Nepal. Ceremonies commences on the 1st of Baisakh, when the idol is bathed in holy water in the Bagmati. It is then taken to Patan, mounted on a large rath or car and a shrine is placed with carvings and flowers. The whole procession may take up to a week and the idol of Machchhindra is displayed in Patan for a month, before taken back to the Bagmati and placed back in its home temple in Kathmandu.[1] The day that it is returned is referred to as Gudrijhar and the blanket of the idol is symbolically shaken to reveal its emptiness to represent contentment, despite poverty.

Bajra Jogini Jatra

Bajra Jogini was originally celebrated by Buddhists but is also celebrated by Hindus on the 3rd of Baisakh. Her temple, Kharg Jogini, is found at Manichur mountain, near Sankhu. During the week long festival, a fire is burned in the vicinity of the temple near an image of a human head.[1] An image of the goddess is placed in a khat (a wooden shrine) and carried through the town by the men.

Siti Jatra

The Siti Jatra takes place on the 21st of Jeth, on the banks of the Vishnumati, between Kathmandu and Simbhunath. The people feast and afterwards divide into two teams to contest a stone throwing competition. The match was once a serious affair and anybody who was knocked down or captured by the other party was sacrificed to the goddess Kankeshwari.[1] In modern times, however. it is a light hearted affair, mostly among the children.[1]

Gathia Mangal or Ghanta Karn

This festival refers to the celebration of the expulsion of a Rakshasa or demon from the country, held on the 14th of Sawan. The Newars make a straw figure which they beat and drag around the streets.[1] The figures are burned at sunset.

Panjaran

The festival is celebrated twice a year, on the 8th of Sawan and the 13th of Bhadon. The Banras, priests of the Newar Buddhists visit each house and receive a small offering of grain or rice to commemorate their ancestors who were not permitted to trade.[1] The Newars decorate their shops and houses with pictures and flowers and the women sit with large baskets of rice and grain to dispense to the Banras. it is celebrated at late night.

Janai Purnima

The Rakhi Purnima festival takes place on the last day of Sawan and is celebrated by both Buddhists and Hindus.[1] However the Buddhist bathe in sacred streams and visit their temples and the Brahman priests tie an ornamental thread to the wrists of their followers and in return receive gifts. Many pilgrims visit Gosain Than and bathe at the sacred lake.

Nag Panchani takes place on the 5th of Sawan to commemorate the battle between Nag and Garur. The stone image of Garur at Changu Narayan is said to perspire during the festival and priests are sent to wipe the perspiration off with a handkerchief.[1] They later present it to the king and water is used to make it into a snake bite remedy, despite the fact that there are few snakes inhabiting Nepal.[1] there is a belief that nag panchami is the day of welcoming the other festivals in the Nepal.

Janmashtami is celebrated on the 8th of Bhadon, in memory of Krishna.[1] Shops and houses are adorned in celebration.

Gai Jatra

This entirely Newar festival is held on the 1st day of Bhadon. Newars who have lost loved ones during the year traditionally disguised themselves as cows and danced around the palace of the king.[1] However, in modern times, the ceremony is performed only as a masked dance with the singing of songs.

Bagh Jatra

This festival takes place on the 2nd of Bhadon. Dancers once dressed up in tiger costumes but today it is merely a repetition of the Gai Jatra festival.[1]

Indra Jatra

Dancers

The Indra Jatra festival begins on the 26th of Bhadon and lasts for eight days. On the first day a lofty wooden post is erected before the king’s palace and dancers from all across Nepal perform with masks. If an earthquake ever occurred on the opening day of the festival this was considered a bad omen and the festival would have to be restarted.[1] On the third day, young virgins are brought before the king and worshipped and then carried through Kathmandu, mounted on oars.

Dashain

This festival takes place on the 26th of Kuar. It lasts for 10 days and buffaloes and goats are sacrificed. On the initial festival day, the Brahmans sow barley at the place where they worship and ritualistically sprinkle it with sacred water on a daily basis.[1] On the tenth day they pull it up and present it in bunches to their followers.

Mohani

Main article: Mohani

Mohani corresponds to Dasain and is one of the year’s grandest celebrations for the Newars. The event involves family gatherings and outdoor functions, and lasts 10 days.

Deepawali

Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is celebrated during Deepawali.

Deepawali takes place on the 15th of Kartik as part of the Tihar Festival to worship Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. People illuminate their houses and gambling is permitted for three days and nights. During the celebrations gamblers are found in the streets and some gamblers are known to make extreme bets such as staking their own wives and even their own hands .[citation needed][1]

Khicha Puja or Gai Puja/Sa Paru

Khicha Puja is a Newar festival held on the 15th of Kartik in late autumn as part of the Tihar Festival. Dog, crows and cows are especially prominent during this festival and dogs are commonly seen with wreaths of flowers around their necks.[1] Crows are worshipped by offerings of sweets and dishes.[2] The cawing of the crows symbolises sadness and grief in the Hindu mythology, so the devotees offer the crows food to avert grief and deaths in their homes. Cows are commonly celebrated on the third day of Tihar, as they are regarded as the mothers of the universe in Hinduism, where after weaning by the birth mother, the cow acts as the surrogate mother to humans, providing milk for the rest of the human life.[2] A tika is placed on the forehead of the cow and a flower garland is placed on the neck.[2] The cow festival is known as Gai Puja in Nepali but commonly referred to as Sa Paru.

Bhai Tika

Lighting during the Tihar Festival season.

On the 17th of Kartik, as part of the Tihar Festival, men visit the house of their sister’s, where sister put a tika or mark on his forehead and a garland around his neck.[1] The men then touches the feet of their sisters and whereby grand meal (shelroti (nepali roti),sweetmeats and other eatable things to eat) is served by sisters to brothers in their house . In return she receives a gift of money, clothes or ornaments etc.

Bala Chaturdasi or Satbyu

The temple of Pashupati

This festival takes places on the 14th of Aghan, when people gather in the forest of Mrigasthali, near the temple of Pashupati to scatter an offering of rice, vegetables and sweetmeats.[1]

Kartik Poornima

On the first day of the month of Kartik, many women go to the temple of Pashupati. There they remain for an entire month, fasting and drinking only water. Some women have died during the fasting but the majority generally survive and on the last day of the month, known as the purnima, the night is spent rejoicing the success of the fasting by singing and dancing into the night.[1]

Ganesh Chauth

The Ganesh Chauth festival is held on the 4th of Magh, in honor of Ganesh, the god of wisdom. The day is spent fasting and worshipping and in ended by feasting into the night.[1]

Maghe Sankranti

Maghe sankranti is observed in the month of January on the first day of the month of Magh, bringing an end to the ill-omened month of Poush when all religious ceremonies are forbidden.On this day, the sun leaves its southernmost position and takes off for its northward journey, so Maghe Sankranti is similar to solstice festivals in many other traditions. People participate in holy bathing in this festival and auspicious foods like laddoo, ghee, sweet potatoes etc. are distributed. The mother of the house wishes good health to all family members. According to Mahabharata, king Bhisma, who had the power to control his own death, happened to choose to die on the day of Maghe Sakranti. Therefore it is believed that to die on this day might achieve Moksha, a release from the rebirth cycle.

Basant or Sripanchami

Saraswati

This festival takes place on the 20th of Magh in the honor of Saraswati, the goddess of learning.[1]

Holi

The festival takes place on the last day of Phagun. In Nepal, a wooden post, known as a chir is adorned with flags and erected in front of the palace. It is burned at night, representing the burning of the body of the old year.[1]

Maghi Purnima

The bathing festival where Newars bathe in the Bagmati River. during Magh. On the last day of the month, bathers are carried in a procession in ornamented dolis, lying on their backs with lighted lamps (known as chirags) on their chests, arms and legs. Other bathers bear earthen water pots on their heads, perforated with straws, through which water seeps down to sprinkle passers by. Traditionally the bathers wear green spectacles to protect their eyes from the sparks of the lamps they are in contact with.[1]

Ghoday Jatra

Statue of Jang Bahadur in Kathmandu

Traditionally on the 15th of Chait, all horses and ponies belonging to government servants were assembled at the grand parade ground and entered into a race in front of the king and top officials who are stationed around a central monument. The monument bore Sir Jang Bahadur‘s statue. After the event, gambling is allowed for two days and nights and the festival ends with an illumination of the monument. In 1875, Bahadur’s statue and four dragon monuments were moved into a newly built temple in his honor, hence the location of the festival moved.[1]

Jana Baha Dyah Jatra

Jana Bāhā Dyah Jātrā is the chariot procession of Jana Baha Dyah, the Bodhisattva of compassion, which is held annually in Kathmandu. During the festival, the image of Jana Bāhā Dyah is removed from his temple at Jana Baha and installed in a car built in the shape of a tower on wheels. The chariot is drawn through the center of Kathmandu for three days.

Limbu festivals

Some festivals may be practiced within ethnic groups in Nepal. Here are notable Limbu festivals:

  1. Chasok Tangnam
  2. Kakphekwa Tangnam
  3. Yakwa Tangnam
  4. Sisekwa Tangnam
  5. Walihang Tangnam
  6. Kusang Tangnam

Other festivals

Chhechu

Chhechu is a ceremony of the Tamang communities that takes place to the northwest of the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal over the course of ten days. It contains sportive plays (tsema), exorcisms, and rituals. There are eleven tsema performed, and three exorcisms.

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