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10 Greatest Festivals of Nepalese: Nepal is a landlocked country in the world. It is situated in South Asia. Its total area is 1, 47,181 sq.km. Nepal is a small country between two large countries of Asia, India and China. Nepal is a common home of people of different communities. Their customs, religions and language are different. In Nepal there is unity in diversity. Nepal is not only the land of mountains; it is also the land of festivals. There are more than 50 festivals celebrated in Nepal every year. While the national festivals have fixed dates, religious festivals are set by astrologers following the lunar calendar. The best part about the festivals in Nepal is that all the events are celebrated with the same enthusiasm and galore the way it used to be hundreds of years ago when people had no other means of entertainment.

1) Dashain

Dashain is the greatest festival of Nepal Hindus. Like other festivals, it is also based on the lunar clendar and falls in the months of Aswin or Kartik(from mid September to mid November). Dashain is observed for 15 days from the new moon day (Ghatasthapana) to the full moon day (Kojagrat Purnima). It is a festival of great delight, enthusiasm and rapture. The time of Dashain is very fine. The weather is fair and mild. There is no more mud or dust. Farmers are getting relief from their tiring season of plantations and weddings. Schools, colleges, factories and offices remain close. Fair and pleasant weather, ripening and rustling crops, busy roads and paths, crowded shops, speedy renovations and cleanliness of roads, temples, taps, etc., and decorations all indicate the arrival of the greatest festival. Dashain celebrates the inevitable victory of virtune over vice, of truth over untruth and of justice over injustice. The tenth day known as Vijayadashami is the main day of the vacation festival. On this day, people receive red tika, jamara and blessings from their seniors. Rato tika is the symbol of both fortune and victory in Hindu culture. Dashain is also the time of family gatherings and feasts people forget their differences and misunderstandings and visit their relatives.

2) Tihar

The Nepali second big festival Tihar is also known by many name Diwali or Deepawali. Tihar is the most celebrated festival after Dashain in Nepal. It is a five-day festival celebrated in late autumn. It has its unique ways of celebration. During this festival, people will honour crows, dogs, cows as well as Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and luck. On the last day, brothers are greeted and blessed by the sisters.. As numerous candles and festive lanterns will be lit up for the Goddess of Laxmi, Tihar is also well-known as the festival of lights. The crow and the dog are regarded as the envoy of the Yama, the God of Death. The first two day observes their worship. On the third day, cow is worshiped in the morning and Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth is worshiped in the evening with a belief that she would bring fortune to the worshiper. On the fourth day, oxen are worshipped in much the same way as the cows and dogs. Some, though not all Hindus, worship toward Goverdhan mountain on this day and make a “mini-mountain” of cow dung to represent it.. On the day, Newar community people perform a self-worship ceremony called Mha Pooja. On the occasion, people worship oneself and celebrate by eating special cuisine and drinks. The Newar community also celebrates their new on the day. Every house, buildings and temples are graced by the rows of light, usually the traditional Nepali lamp of twisted cotton wick in a small clay bowl of mustard oil. The last day of Tihar is called as Bhai Tihar, commonly known as Bhai Tika. On this day, sisters pray for the long and prosperous life of their brothers. It is celebrated with lights, lighting the butter lamp everywhere in the house. Children and elder enjoy fire crackers, go door to door singing Deusi and Bhailo.

3) Buddha Jayanti

Buddha Purnima’ is also known as ‘Buddha Jayanti’. Buddha Purnima is celebrated to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death (Nirvan) of Gautam Buddha, the three important events in the life of Buddha. It is celebrated on the full moon night in Vaisakha month according to the Hindu calendar that usually falls in April or May. Buddha Jayanti is day which is seen as being thrice blessed, as Buddhists remember Lord Buddha’s birth in 623 BC, his enlightenment or attainment of supreme wisdom in 588 BC and his realization of Nirvana at the age of 80. Buddha Jayanti is an elaborate occasion and Buddhist monasteries all around the world resound with sermons, prayers and recitals of Buddhist scriptures throughout the day. These are offered in front of a statue of Lord Buddha. This festival is celebrated throughout South-East Asia. This festival is celebrated by the Buddhists. It is the most holy time in the Buddhist calendar. Buddha Purnima is also known as Vaisakha Puja in India. In Buddha Purnima devotees make donations to the temple. People gather into large groups to parade through the streets while chanting prayers to the Lord Buddha to thank him for all his generous provisions. On this day the Buddhists bathe and wear only white clothes. Incense, flowers, candles and fruits are offered to the statue of the Buddha. People from all over the world travel to visit the Mahabodhi tree, the site where Buddha attained enlightenment. Colored flags are tied to the tree and fruit and candle offerings are made to it as well.

4) Gai Jatra ( Cow Festival) 

Gaijatra, a popular festival in Nepal, is celebrated in the month of August with great excitement and enthusiasm especially in Kathmandu valley by the Newar community. Gaijatra is the festival of cows.Gai is known as cow and jatra is known as festival in Nepal. It is celebrated for clearing the route to heaven for the deceased family member. In the early morning, local Newars give a bath to the cow, especially cleaning their tails. Then the cows are decorated with red Tika and beautiful garlands. After those rituals, the cow processions begin to parade around the whole Kathmandu valley. If the cow is not available, young boys will dress up as cows to pray for the dead. During the boisterous marches, they will deliberately walk through the temples, the statues of the gods and other sacred places. When the parades pass by, many people will offer the food, gift and petty cash to the cow owners and the cow-like boys. It’s believed that this kind of giving will bring them good luck in the following days. People also have fun on this day as they dress up in comic way and the political and social problems are mocked publicly. Although Gaijatra is celebrated in all three districts of Kathmandu valley, Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, it is enjoyed whole day in Bhaktapur in high spirits. Besides sending a child around the city, different other things are done in Bhaktapur. There is a special stick dance called “Ghintang Ghising” that is performed on this day. Varieties of shows are staged for the whole week and people are thoroughly entertained in the process. It is believed that Gaijatra started from the period of King Pratap Malla who had lost a son. This loss caused great sorrow to the queen and she stopped laughing. So the king ordered his people to take out a procession from each house who had lost their family member that year. He also ordered them to have as much fun as possible so that the queen would laugh. When the people took out the procession, the queen realized that lot of people had lost their dear ones just like she lost her son. This helped to console the queen and the satires against the problems were so funny she burst into laughter. Since then the festival has been celebrated every year.

5) Janai Purnima

Janai Purnima festival is early August festival in Nepal. Janai Purnima, mostly know as Janai Purne and also known as Kwati Purne, Srawani Purnima, Rishi Purnima and Raksha Bandhan is one such festival which very magnanimous. Janai Purnima, the Sacred Thread Festival, requires Hindu men, especially the Brahmans and Chettris to perform their annual change of Janai worn across the chest. This thread is given to males during a religious ceremony called the ‘Bratabandhan’. The ‘triple cord’ is a symbol of body, speech and mind, and when the knots are tied the wearer is supposed to gain complete control over each. This is also the day of Rakshya Bandhan when male, females, and children regardless of station and caste tie a sacred yellow thread around their wrist. Raksha means ‘protection’ and Bandhan means a bond, which is supposed to bring good vibes to the wearer and if tied to the tail of a cow in Laxmi Puja, according to religious beliefs, once the wearer dies, the cow will help him to cross the river Bhaitarni, by allowing the dead to cling to her tail. This festival is very much popular among the Hindus. And on this day sisters tie Rakhi on the wrist of their brothers. Sisters tie a delicate cord of Rakhi on this day and pray for their brothers long life. Brothers, in turn, give them Rakhi gifts and vows to protect and care for them lifelong. So it is called Raksha Bandhan. And on this day mainly the Newar community cook a special food called Kwati, a soup of nine-mixed-beans – Black-eye Peas, Cow Peas, Black Lentils, Mung, Peas, Rajmas, Chickpeas, Soybeans and eaten with wheat-bread (chapati). Newar farmers offer different food items to frogs on this day. Belief holds that worshiping the frog, which is considered an agent of the God of rainfall, by making offerings of different food items help to increase the production of crops.

6) Teej

Teej is the fasting festival of women in Nepal. It falls in the month of August or early September. Married women observe Teej fast to honor Lord Shiva and for long and healthy life of their husband. Unmarried girls also observe fast on this day for a good husband. Teej celebrations last for three pious days. Traditional dances and songs form an important feature of Teej celebrations. Red color is considered auspicious for women observing Teej fast and so most of them dress up in red or bridal clothes. On this day, women dress up beautifully. They clad themselves in red colored apparels, wear glass bangles, heavy ornaments and apply henna. Teej gives women an opportunity to dress like the newly wed. They worship the epitome of divine marriage – Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, for longevity and prosperity for their husband and family. According to mythology Teej is celebrated to mark the reunion of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvati is said to have gone through severe reparation and took 107 births on the earth to finally unite with Siva. Waterless fast and sleepless nights spent by womenfolk are symbolic of Parvati’s hardship. The first day of Teej in Nepal is called the ‘Dar Khane Din’. On this day, the women gather at one place and perform traditional dance and sing devotional songs. A special food called ‘dar’ is eaten. Celebrations continue till midnight after which the 24-hour-long fast begins. The second or the fasting day of the Teej festival is dedicated to pujas and prayers. Some women live without food and drops of water while others take liquid and fruit. The fasting is observed by married and unmarried women. They dress gaily and visit a nearby Shiva temple singing and dancing on the way. The Pashupatinath Temple gets the highest number of devotees. At the temple, women circumambulate the Shiva Lingam, which symbolizes Lord Shiva, offers the praying with flowers, sweets and coins. The third day of the Teej Festival is called Rishi Panchami. On this day, the seven sages of the Hindu pantheon are worshiped by women in a belief that it will cleanse all sins of the previous year. Womenfolk take a holy bath with red mud found on the roots of the sacred Datiwan bush, along with its leaves. After three hours of rigorous cleansing, they come out purified and absolved from all sins. After this they sit in a semicircle while a priest sitting in the middle chants devotional prayers. Teej allows women full freedom of expression. Consequently, women have traditionally used this occasion to express their pains and pang in the songs they sing while dancing. With the advancement of communication and awareness, women these days use this occasion to voice their concerns about social issues and discrimination against women.

7) Shree Krishna janmashtami

Krishna Janmashtami’ is one of the holiest festivals for the people belonging to Hindu religion. Janmashtami is celebrated as the birthday of Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is regarded as the 8th avatar or ‘incarnation’ of Lord Vishnu. This festival is hugely celebrated throughout the country. This festival is observed on eighth day of Krishna Paksha in the month of Bhadrapad (august or September) as per Hindu calendar. Lord Krishna is one of the great lords in Nepal. Krishna Janmasthami, also known as Krishna Janmasthami or gokulasthami On Krishna Janmashtami numerous devotees flock to the ancient Krishna temple in old Patan Durbar Square to keep vigil through the glorious night of his birth. Crowds of men and women edge their way slowly up narrow steps through the seated devotees to the temple’s dark interior to where the main idol stands. There they offer flowers, coins and food and wait for a glimpse of Krishna the idol. After the temple priest gives them ‘prasad’ they make their way down to join the multitude of devotees in the streets

8) Holi

Holi is a festival of colours which every year celebrates the people of Hindu religion (March) in the month of Falgun. Holi is celebrated with colors, water, sweets and music. People put color on each other as a token of love. People go houses of relatives and friends in group. Put colors on each other eat sweets and move whole day. People dance and play music. People in Terai celebrate Holi the next day from Kathmandu Valley and other hilly reason of Nepal. On this day, most of offices remain closed. The whole Kathmandu valley is immersed in the festival atmosphere. Whether people know each other or not, they’ll be sprayed with Holi powder and colorful water. Some people organized picnic to celebrate holli with family and relatives and some people goes to temple to worship lord Vishnu. In the Kathmandu Valley, Fagu Poornima begins on the first day with the raising of the Chir pole about noon in front of Kumari House in Basantapur. The pole 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.

After all, this festival was originally celebrated within a Hindu context. King Hiranyakashipu was so arrogant and didn’t allow people to worship Lord Vishnu. However, Prince Prahlada was an ardent devotee of Vishnu and openly opposed his father. This enraged Hiranyakashipu. Since then, the king ordered his sister Holika to burn the prince on the full moon night. Under the blessing of God Vishnu, Prahlada was unscathed while Holika was burned into ashes. After that Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of Narshima and killed the demon, King. Since Holika was destroyed, the festival is named after her and celebrated as the victory of God over evil.

9) Maghe sankrant

Maghe Sankranti is occur in the first day of month of Magh of Bikram Sambat (midJanuary). It marks the coming of warmer weather and better days of health and fortune. It is yet another important festival in Nepal. Also known as Makar sankranti or Maghi, it is celebrated with great joy all over Nepal. Like every festival in Nepal, maghe sankranti also has its own story behind its celebration. Hindu devotes worshipped Mahadev Idol with a belief that it would bring good supply of food and wealth. On this day people take deep bath in holy rivers like triveni, Shankhamool, Dolalghat, Bagmati or any other religious rivers in Nepal. On this day, family gather together and eat special foods like ghee, chaaku , tarul , teel ladoos (sesame ladoo), etc. These foods are eaten so as to make ourselves warmer from inside on winter of January. Families gather together for the celebration.  Daughters and son in laws are also invited for lunch. People belonging to Newar community massage their body and head with sesame oil as a belief that it would make them strong and warm from inside. Maghe sankranti is also the biggest festival of Tharu community. Tharu community is the ethnic community Nepal commonly residing terai region of Nepal. They celebrate Maghe sankranti as ‘Maghi’. In Tharu community, maghi is considered as the end of a year and beginning of a new one. Nowadays Tharu community people organized mela in Tundikhel in this day where Tharu People put different food stall, shop also cultural program resembling tharu cultur and tradition. People from different community can get to know about tharu community through this mela.

10) Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on month of falgun (February/March). There are many stories behind the celebration of Shivaratri. During Samundra Manthan, the poison Halahal came out of the ocean. It started creating destruction all over. To protect the universe from the devastation Lord Shiva drank the poison and managed to keep it in his throat. Shiva protected the world from the dangerous poison; therefore, people started celebrating the day as Shivaratri and thanking Shiva for shaving the world.It is believed Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati on this day.  Some places, Shivaratri is observed as marriage anniversary of Shiva-Parvati too. In Shivaratri Pashupatinatha temple has a big possession. Hindu devotees from all over Nepal and all over Southeast Asia visit Pashupatinath.  Large number of Shadus comes to Pashupatinath. Different types of Shadus can be seen around Pashapupati and its surroundings.  Shiva devotees observe whole day and night fasting. Shiva Linga pooja is done in the night by chanting mantras, offering Beal leaf and pouring water on the linga. Fireplace is set in avenues and in temples at night to make Lord Shiva warm.  Children go in search of wood singing “Shivaji lai jado bhayo aago deu”. (Shivaji is feeling cold, give some fire).  In villages and towns big logs are burnt in places and people sing Shiva bhajans the whole night.

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