Festivals in Nepal
Nepal is a Country that loves Festivals. For the Nepalese, festivals are not simply the yearly spectacles, but also are a living part of their wealthy cultural tradition.
Festivals effectively connect the Nepalese people of various cultural backgrounds and thinking into one nation. Most Nepalese festivals are related to different religions gods and goddesses and they are celebrated on such days consecrated for them by religion and tradition.
Others are observed concerning personal relatives such as festivals of Matatirtha and Gaijatra. Yet others are held to herald the different seasons or to mark the beginning or end of the agricultural cycle.
Some festivals are of national meaning such as Dashain, Tihar, or chhata; some are restricted to the Katmandu Valley, while still others are celebrated only within one or two villages or cities. Nepal (New Year’s Day) April-May
Festivals in Valley
The Nepalese follow their calendar system known as the Bikram Sambat. This festival celebrates the first day of the first month of the New Year and is observed as an official holiday.
In Bhaktapur, fifteen kilometers from Katmandu, the new year celebrations take on added importance as the “Festival of Bisket” during a tall wooden post is erected in one of the main squares. This festival commemorates the great battle of Mahabharata, with the wooden post symbolizing victory.
After two days, images of god Bhairab and his female counterpart Bhadra are enshrined in two large chariots and pulled through crowds of cheering onlookers. When the chariot reaches an inclined open square, there is a tug-of-war between the population of the upper and lower parts of the town.
Winners are considered to be blessed with good fortune for the coming year. The festival concludes with several days of dancing and worship. Thimi, another ancient town of the Valley, also celebrates the New Year with special festivities.
Rato Machchhendranath Festival
This festival takes place in Patan, Lalitpur. During the celebrations, the towering chariot of Lord Machchhendranath is pulled by ropes through the narrow streets of the city followed by a large crowd of worshippers. In front of the chariot, a small crowd of musicians and soldiers adds even more excitement to the occasion.
Over several weeks, the chariot is slowly hauled to Jawalakhel where tens of thousands of devotees burn oil lamps and keep an all-night-vigil. During this chariot festival the “Bhoto” or sacred waistcoat, itself the subject of many legends is displayed from the chariot as all the onlookers strain to catch a glimpse of the lucky sight.
A final ceremony is then conducted to mark Lord Machchhendranath’s leaving for one year.
Buddha Jayanti is a great day for the Nepalese. This day which falls on the full moon of the month of Baisakh is celebrated to commemorate the birth, attainment of knowledge, and the death of Lord Buddha the founder preacher of Buddhism, more than 2500 years ago.
It is a thrice-blessed day. It is the day when he attained Nirvana (salvation). Prayers are sung and worship is offered by the Buddhists in leading Buddhist shrines throughout the country.
At Swayambhunath temple, for example, devout Buddhists gather to chant prayers and burn butter lamps. The next morning, small shrines are visited and worshipped. Parading groups walk through the streets of Katmandu and Patan while special flags fly from all Buddhist households.
The festival is celebrated by both the Hindus and Buddhists with great enthusiasm. The festival continues for eight days throughout which time there is much joy, dancing, and feasting.
On the first day, a long wooden pole is erected in front of the ancient Royal Palace at Hanuman Dhoka, to propitiate Indra, the god of rain. Classical dancers also assemble at the spot wearing different kinds of masks and dancing around the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka to celebrate Indra’s visit.
On the third day of the festival, the Living Goddess or “Kumari” is taken out in a procession in a chariot. Three chariots of Kumari, Ganesh, and Bhairav are taken around the city for three days.
The festival’s many other attractive dances including the Mahakali, Mahalaxmi, and Dasha Avatara masked dances, are theatrical on the plinth of Narayan temple, just conflicting the Kumari temple. On the last evening of the festival, the long wooden pole erected on the first day is lowered amid religious ceremonies and animal sacrifices
This typical Sherpa festival is celebrated exclusively in the Lama monasteries of the Mt. Everest region. It is held in May, mostly on full moon day at the Thame monastery in the Khumbu region, near Namche Bazaar at an altitude of 13,123feet (4000m). A very spectacular masked dance drama played for three full days is the main outdoor highlight of the festival.
Taking place towards the end of the Nepalese month of Sravan, this festival celebrates the exorcism of a mythical demon, Ghantakarna, who, according to legend, was greatly feared throughout the Katmandu Valley. The festival is celebrated by acting out the legendary drama in the streets.
To begin with, children of each Kathmandu Neighborhood collect money from passersby which are then used to make an effigy of the demon god. While this image remains in the center of a bumpy tent-like structure erected from bamboo poles, one man impersonates Ghantakarna by smearing himself with white paint and roaming the local area collecting donations in a begging bowl. Surrounded by the crowds of small children, the group then returns to the effigy and proceeds to take it to the river for burning, thus marking the victory of the local inhabitants over the devil god.
According to a custom dating back since time immemorial, each family who has lost one family member throughout the past year must take part in a demonstration through, the street of Katmandu leading a cow.
If a cow is not available then a little boy dressed up as a cow is considered to be a fair replacement. It is believed that the sign of a cow, revered as a holy animal by all devout Hindus, will assist the deceased relative’s heavenward journey.
Later in the day, almost everybody takes part in one more age-old tradition in which all participants dress up and put on masks; jokes, mockery, and humor of every kind become the order of the day until the late evening.
Krishnashtami or the birthday of Lord Krishna is celebrated in commemoration of the hero of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata.
On this day, worshippers carry ornate and decorated idols and pictures of Lord Krishna through the streets, often with bands of musicians following or preceding the procession. In Patan, thousands of devout flock to Krishna temple to worship and receive blessings.
Dashain is Nepal’s most important and lavishly celebrated festival. The first day of the festival is known as Ghatasthapana-the placing of the sacred vessel.
According to the tradition, all devout Hindus should take an early morning bath in the holy river and return carrying some sand from the riverbed. At the same time, a small clay pot is filled with water from the same river and placed by the sand.
Barely seeds are planted in this pot and nurtured for nine days. As with other Nepalese festivals, this ritual has also a specific meaning. In this case, the river water represents the mother goddess Durga, who according to legend, crushed many powerful demon hordes in an epic battle. For the next nine days, devouts, go to different prescribed sites for early morning bathes.
The next major event occurs on the 7th day of the festival when the sacred flowers and leaves are brought from the old palace of Kind Prithvi Narayan Shah at Gorkha.
When the flowers reach Katmandu, there is a large procession to the Hanuman Dhoka gate where brass bands are waiting to celebrate the occasion. At the same time, guns and cannons are fired at Tundikhel parade ground.
The eighth day of the festival is known as Mahashtami and is marked by a fast by all orthodox Hindus. In the morning, animal sacrifices are carried out at temples dedicated to Goddess Durga.
On the 9th day, all temples dedicated to Durga are bathed in sacrificial blood. On this day, even vehicles and other mechanical items are worshipped and sacrificed to prevent accidents during the coming year. Similarly, all instruments, weapons, and implements of all professions are worshipped in the hope that Durga will bless their usefulness and accuracy. In the evening, there is an elaborate sacrifice at the Taleju temple near Hanuman Dhoka.
The peak of the Dashain celebration is reached on the tenth day known as Vijaya Dashami, or the Day of Victory. On this day, all the Hindus are supposed to visit their elders or superior relatives, starting with their parents.
The main purpose of this visit is to receive tika and shoots of the barley known as jamara. Tika is a red dot or smear placed on the visitor’s forehead by the senior relative. Also frequently used in other festivals and even in daily worship, the tika consists of vermilion powder, rice, and curd. As all visits cannot be completed in one day, they continue until the end of the festival.
After Dashain, Tihar is probably Nepal’s second most important festival. The first day of the festival is crow’s day. In the early morning, worshippers bathe either in the Bagmati or some other river. After this, the devouts brightness a small oil lamp made of cotton wool and mustard oil and located in a leaf pot. Then the first portion of each family food is offered to the crows.
The second day is known as the dog’s day. On this occasion, dogs are given a red tika on their foreheads and garlanded with flowers. They are then worshipped and offered large plates of food, including many delicacies.
The next day is the cow’s day and these animals are also worshipped similarly. This day is an even more important day, as Laxmi Puja, or the day for worshipping Laxmi the goddess of wealth also falls on this day.
Towards the evening, small candles or wick lamps are lighted and placed outside the main door and along windowsills. This becomes a very attractive spectacle as the entire city, town, and village turn into filled with little lights.
The fourth day of Tihar is “self day” or “self-worship”. As the name implies, this ritual aims to felicitate the sprit dwelling in one’s own body.
Brother’s day or Bhai Tika is the fifth and last day of Tihar. On this day, every sister worships her brothers by placing a multicolored tika on their foreheads and offering her blessings. The brothers then in turn give tika to their sisters after which gifts are also exchanged. As with lots of other festivals, Tihar ends with an impressive feast with all family members present.
Chhath festival, which was earlier limited to the Terai region, is now gaining popularity in the federal capital Kathmandu, hilly areas, and elsewhere. This festival is a festival on which all the men and women of the village gather at the Pujaghat. It gives a chance to get closer to each other. Chhath festival is also an occasion for family gatherings.
Under the main method, Araba-Arbain is done in the method of the first day (Chaturthi), which is also called Nahay-Khai. Kharna is performed on the second day, sunset on the third day, and sunrise on the fourth day. Sun worship in this festival is supposed to bring children, health, happiness, prosperity, and cure skin diseases.
The main characteristic of this festival is to boost human interest in truth and non-violence and to inspire empathy for all living beings. This is one of the most celebrated festivals in the world, in which the setting sun is worshiped.
The preparations for the utensils and items required for this festival are started a month in advance.
On the first day of Chhath (Chaturthi), the fasting individual starts fasting from this day by giving up Non-veg, garlic, onion, millet, lentils, and other items. Kharna is performed on the second day of the festival (Panchami), which is also called the decay of sin.
enclosed with cow dung, the land is decorated with a paste made from Araba rice flour, and the Devotees observe a waterless fast throughout the day and at night, after the moonrise, they offer kheer to the moon and receive the same prasad.
After this day, the fasting person should take a complete fast. On the third day (sixty) wheat and rice are threshed in a mortar, mill, or mortar to make various sweet food items. On the same day, besides food, fruits, thekua, Kasar, khajuri, perukiya and radish, carrot, turmeric, jamir, coconut, orange, banana, nanglo, koniya, saraba, dhakan, earthen elephant was kept in a big lid and all the family members sang various devotional and folk songs Reach.
Before placing the utensils on the bank of the reservoir, the place and the worship material are prostrated five times by Vrati. To sanctify the place, the family members have already painted the Aripan according to the Tantric method.
The Devotees then dive into the water for the evening argha and worship till sunset. In this process, Devotee puts pithar and vermilion on both the palms, puts Aksheta flowers on it, and takes turns to offer other Argh materials to the setting sun and comes to Dil.
The fourth (last) day of the festival is celebrated. On this day, those who fast at dawn return to the reservoir and drink the morning sun, repeating the order of the previous day. It is customary to listen to Surya Purana after the completion of Argh. devotee have a tradition of listening and telling the story of Chhath Vrat.
The sun is also called the ancient god. After the existence of human beings, it is believed that the sun is the first to give light, generate heat in the body, and protect against diseases. Since the light of the sun saves those who are afraid of the darkness of night, the ancient people used to worship the sun. The famous thinker and philosopher Yajnavalkya of Mithila in the post-Vedic period considered the sun as his guru.