MAJOR FESTIVALS OF NEPAL:
29TH SEPTEMBER 2019 TO 9TH OCTOBER 2019
This is the longest Hindu festival in Nepal, traditionally celebrated for two weeks with prayers and offerings to Durga, the Universal Mother Goddess. The great harvest festival of Nepal, Dashain is a time for family reunions, exchange of gifts and blessings, and elaborate pujas. Dashain honors the Goddess Durga, who was created out of the shakti or energy of all the gods, armed with weapons from each of them.
Goddess Durga, symbolizing valor and prowess, is worshipped and offered sacrifices to ensure the devotees' progress and prosperity. During the first ten days, pilgrims flock to various river confluences early in the morning and sacred shrines in the evening. Ghatasthapana, Phool Pati, Mahaastami, Nawami and Vijaya Dashami are the series of the events under Dashain each marked with a different set of rituals.
During Dashain, men and women in their fineries visit their elders to seek tika (a dab of red vermilion mixed with yogurt and rice) accompanied by blessings. Sword precessions (Paayaa) are also held in various part of the Kathmandu Valley. A large number of animals are officially sacrificed at Hanuman Dhoka during Nawami which is attended by officials, invitees and visitors.
During the ninth day, the Taleju Temple which is normally out of bounds is also open to the public. The last day, known as Kojagrat Purnima, is the full moon. New clothes, home visits, grand feasts, kite flying and village swings are the highlights of Dashain. Around this time the population of Kathmandu is greatly reduced as many head home to various parts of the country.
On the tenth day known as Tika, people are seen moving around with their foreheads covered with rice tika, wearing new clothes. There is much feasting as people visit relatives’ homes to receive tika and blessings.
2ND SEPTEMBER 2019
Occurring around the month of August, Teej is a festival celebrated by women all over Nepal for three days. Decked up in red sarees and red tika, bangles, women sing and dance to traditional folk songs for days. It is specially significant for married women, when they get a special invitation to visit their maternal home and feast.
Following a long feast also known as Dar, the women, sit for a 24 hour long fasting , where most do not eat or even drink water. What is fascinating is to watch women of all age group, young and old, dance for hours in the heat , rain, without a drop of water or food for an entire day.
It is a sight to behold at the Pashupatinath temple, where thousands of women draped in Red and green throng the premises of the temple. Observers can take photos of these women dancing merrily , where sometimes foreigners, especially women tourists are requested to participate in the merry-making.
The significance of such a festival is for women to ask for special blessings by Lord Shiva, to have attain a good husband in life, and to pray for his longevity and prosperity.
On the final day of this three day festival Women satisfy seven saints offering them food, money and various offerings, and also bathing with Red mud and brushing their teeth with Datiwan (branches of a bush tree) hoping this purifies their body and soul.
16TH AUGUST 2019
Gai Jatra is a festival of dancing, singing, mirth and laughter. The festival of cow is celebrated in the Kathmandu Valley to commemorate the death of loved ones. As part of the festival family members of the deceased of the past year send people mostly children. dressed as cows to parade on the streets.The festival usually falls in July or August.
Gai Jatra is a time to remember lost ones and also to ease the pain. The word "Gai" mans cow in English. Cow is regarded as the goddess of wealth in the Hindu religion. Sharing of sorrow and taking the comfort in knowing that their lost ones are safe is the true reason of celebrating this festival.
The day is also marked with a gay parade along with many people dressed is weird clothes. In Bhaktapur the festival lasts for eight days. The origin of this celebration goes back to the reign of the Malla rulers. It is said that the Malla Queen was in mourning for a long time after the untimely death of her son. The king in an attempt to console her asked every family that lost a loved one to come out in a procession to show the queen that she was not alone with her suffering. That is why there is much joy and joking during the procession that goes through the streets.
23RD AUGUST 2019
The birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated as Krishn Ashtami. Krishna, the dark- skinned god revered as a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, who taught warrior Arjuna the value of Karma in the Bhagwad Gita, was born at midnight on the eighth day of the dark moon of August which is known as ashtami.
To celebrate the birthday of this popular Hindu god, devotees flock to Krishna temples all over Nepal; Kathmandu Valley's Krishna Mandir in Patan Durbar Square is the center of celebrations and is thronged by a large number of devotees who gather at night to pay homage beyond mid-night. Even during the day, hordes of devotees visit the temple to pray and make offerings.
At night, men and women from far and wide gather in and around the 17th century stone temple singing praises of Lord Krishna waiting for the midnight hour. Euphoric prayers and incantations fill the air, and small oil lamps are lit as a mark of felicitation and devotion to the god.
Images of Lord Krishna are also carried around the city in processions accompanied by joyous crowds of followers and musical troupes. Along the lanes of old Kathmandu people display framed pictures of Krishna showing various episodes of his amazing life.
13TH SEPTEMBER 2019
The eight-day long Indra Jatra festival falls in September and is one of the most exciting and revered festivals of the Newar community of the Kathmandu Valley. This also marks the beginning of a month-long festival season of autumn. It begins with the erection of a wooden pole made of pine at Basantapur Sqaure in front of the old Hanuman Dhoka Palace.
For the pole-raising ceremony, hundreds of spectators gather at the Palace Square and on the surrounding temples. The chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, is taken out in a procession through the main streets of Kathmandu.
Masked dancers known as Lakhay take to the streets almost every evening accompanied by loud drums. The festival commemorates the time when Indra came down from heaven in human form to look for an herb.
Each night of Indra Jatra the shrines and ancient palace buildings around Kathmandu Durbar Square are aglow with oil wicks. Each night on the platform in front of the temple of the Living Goddess, there is an enactment depicting the ten earthly incarnations of Lord Vishnu. The large image of Akash Bhairab's head is put on display out in the open directly facing his temple at Indra Chowk.
In the afternoon of the day before full moon, ecstatic mobs gather near Hanuman Dhoka Palace for the long-awaited Living Goddess’ chariot procession to catch a glimpse of the revered little Newar girl who has been deified as Kumari representing Goddess Taleju. The chariot of the Kumari followed by two other smaller chariots carrying a representative of Ganesh and Bhairav is taken to different parts of the old Kathmandu through the narrow alleys where people gather to watch and py homage. The festival of Indra Jatra ends with the lowering of the (lingam) pole bearing Indra's flag amidst religious ceremonies.
HOLI FAGU PURNIMA
9TH MARCH 2020
Spring not only brings new life but also the festival of Holi, a Hindu festival also known as Fagu Purnima, celebrated on a full-moon day at the end of the month of Falgun, which falls between mid-February and mid-May.
Celebrated by rubbing colored powder on each other's faces, the use of colored water to spray on each other is also prevelent. The harbinger of good and balmy spring weather, Holi is celebrated all over Nepal but more so in the southern Tarai region. Holi will be celebrated on March 1 in the hills, while in the Terai the festival will be celebrated a day later, on March 2. Legend has it that this festival originated as celebration of the death of the Demoness Holika.
This wicked woman, who was supposed to be indestructible by fire had made several attempts and failed to kill her nephew, Prahlad, a devoutee of Lord Vishnu. Eventually, she grabbed the boy and jumped into an inferno, confident that the boy would perish in te blaze while she would escape unscathed. But miraculously, the boy remained unharmed while Holika succumbed to the fire which completely destroyed her.
In Kathmandu Valley, Fagu Poornima begins on the first day with the raising of a pole around noon in front of Kumari House, Durbar Square. Holi is popular for the revelry that surrounds this festival as people douse each other with water and colors. Foreigners especially tourists readily take part in the merriment and get drenched in colorful water as there are no rituals involved in playing.
On thefinal day, the pole known as Chir is brought down, dragged to Tudikhel and burnt to cinders. The ashes are carried home by devotees as it is believed it will provide them protection against evil.
21ST FEBRUARY 2020
Maha Shivaratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal and literally means “Night of the Shiva”. It is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the Māgha month, as per the Hindu lunar calendar.
It is believed that on this day, the stars in the Northern Hemisphere are at most optimum positions to help raise a person’s spiritual energy.It is also believed that the Shiva principle is most active on this day of the year.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated marking the convergence of Shiva and Shakti. Maha Shivaratri also celebrates the night when Lord Shiva performed the "Tandav", the cosmic dance.
Hundreds of thousands of devotees visit Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus. Pashupatinath is considered the Guardian and Protector of the Kathmandu Valley and Nepal.
Devotees chant “Om Namah Shivay” and “Mahamritunjaya” all night praying for light over darkness. Tourists are seen enjoying the ambiance with curiosity, as colorful and naked sadhus are seen meditating, posing for photographs and interacting with disciples.
Special attendance camps are set in the courtyards of the temples. Children are seen collecting donations from passersby on this day preparing for holy meal and bonfire in celebration of the special night.