Nepal is rich country in terms of cultures and festivals. There are more than 125 ethnic groups in Nepal and they celebrate various festivals. Some festivals are celebrated by all the ethnic groups but in different ways. The people celebrate the day when they grow crops and they also celebrate the day when they harvest it. In Hindu culture, there are many gods and goddesses. They worship statues of gods and goddesses. Plants & animals, water source, the mother Earth, Rain God, the Sun god, etc are also worshiped in Hindu culture.
The country gives public holiday for the festivals of all the major religions and all the major ethnic groups. Hence, in Nepal whole year can be taken as the festive season. Various festivals celebrated in Nepal in various months are mentioned below. Nepali people follow Gregorian calendar, also known as Nepali calendar.
1. Baisakh (April / May) & Jestha (May / June)
• The first day of Baisakh month is celebrated as New Year in Nepal.
• The no moon day of Baisakh month is celebrated as Mothers Day. In Nepali this day is called Ama Khuwaune Aunsi.
• The next day after no moon Rato Machhindranath Jatra (the festival of rain god) begins. This festival is celebrated in Lalitpur district of Nepal by the Newar community. In this festival, the locals of Lalitpur district make the 65 feet tall chariot of Rato Machhindranath. Then the locals pull the chariot through the streets of Patan.
• The third day after the no moon is called Akshya Tritiya. The Hindu community people take this day as the one of the most holy day in a year. This day is regarded as the day when Lord Shiva married with goddess Parvati. On this day there is a tradition to eat Sathu (flour of barley) and Sarbat (juice).
• On the full moon day of Baisakh month Nepali people celebrate Buddha Jayanti. It is regarded as the day when Lord Buddha was born. On this day especially Buddhist people and monks visit various stupas and gumbas. On this day heritage sites like Bauddhanath stupa and Swayambhunath stupa are full of Buddhist pilgrims.
• The full moon day is also celebrated as the Ubhauli Parba. This festival is celebrated by the people of Kirat community. This festival denotes the migration of people from lower part of the country to the upper part. This day is celebrated by performing famous Sakela dance.
• Bisket Jatra is one of the most important Jatra of Nepal. It is celebrated in Bhaktapur district. This festival starts from the Thousands of people gather in Bhaktapur to see this festival. This 1st of Baisakh. Huge chariot is made for this festival. Lord Bhairava is placed inside the chariot and this chariot is pulled in the old streets of Bhaktapur. The festival has been marked as the things not to be missed in the month of April.
• Sithi Charhe Puja is celebrated by the Newars of Kathmandu valley. This day denotes the last day to conduct Diwali (the day when hindu people worship their family god). There will be a huge feast on this day. Bara, Papad, etc are the special dish of this festival.
• Similarly on the eighth day after the full moon day of Jestha month Newar community of Devapatan (a place near Pashupatinath temple) celebrate Trishul Jatra. On this day a chariot (the chariot with the Trishul on the top) is pulled around the streets. A child is placed on the top of the chariot and it seems as if the Trishul is piercing the child’s body.
• There is also a festival named Panauti Rath Yatra. On this festival chariot is pulled around the streets of Panauti.
2. Ashad (June /July) & Shrawan(July / August)
• The main festival of this month falls on the 15th of Ashad. This day is taken as the Dhanbali Dibas in Nepal. They celebrate this day by playing with mud in their field. It is believed that if we play in mud in this day then all our skin related diseases will disappear. On this day they sing and dance in mud.
• This day is also known as Dahi Chiura Khane Din. On this day people eat beaten rice with curd. It is the special dish of this day.
• The first day of Shrwan is celebrated as Sahune Sanngranti. On this day people celebrate by eating delicious foods. They call their friends and relatives to their house and organize a big feast. On this day friend and relatives sit together and enjoy by having delicious dishes.
• On the full moon day of Shrawan month, Nepali people worship their teachers by offering delicious dishes and flowers. Similarly they visit Guru Mandir located outside the premises of Pashupatinath temple.
• From the same full moon day Muslim communities of Nepal celebrate Ramadan festival. They celebrate this festival for one month. They fast the whole month but only during the day time.
• On the 3rd day after the full moon day Newar community people of Kathmandu celebrate Gathey Mangal. This festival is celebrated to keep evil things and demons away from their home. They create a devil like creature in the morning and burn it down in the evening and throw it to the rivers. On this day they wear metal ornaments to keep spiritual things away.
3. Bhadra (August / September) & Ashwin (September / October)
• Nag Panchami festival is one of the important festival in the month of Bhadra. This day falls on the fifth day after no moon. Hindus paste the picture of Snake god above the main door of their house. This day is generally celebrated to keep evil spirits away from home. The picture of Nag (Snake) is pasted by using cow dung, wheat flour, etc. On this day Hindus go to Nagpokhari situated in Kathmandu to worship the snake god.
• Janai Purnima is another Hindu festival. On this day Nepali male were Janai (the thread made of cotton generally worn by male of Brahmin and Chhetri community). Generally this thread is worn by Nepali male after they complete Bratabanda ritual. Kwati is the special dish of Janai Purnima. Kwati is the combination of about 10 beans: gram, pea, etc.
• Gai Jatra is another important festival celebrated in Kathmandu Valley. This festival is celebrated on the next day of Janai Purnima. It was the tradition started by King Pratap Malla. He started this tradition in order to make his wife happy because his wife was in grief of losing her son. On this day the locals of Kathmandu who have lost their family during that year come on the streets of Kathmandu valley with their kids dressed like cow. In Bhaktapur this festival is celebrated by performing a special Ghintangghisi dance. To perform this dance locals gather on the street. Two small stick is held on two hands and played between or among the friends.
• On the eighth day after full moon Hindus celebrate Shree Krishna Janmaastami. This day is believed to be the day when Lord Krishna was born. On this day there is a huge gathering of People in Krishna Mandir to worship Lord Krishna.
• Father’s day also known as Bau Khwaune Aunsi is celebrated on the no moon day. On this day the one having their parents celebrate by serving their father with delicious food and gifting new clothes. But, the people who don’t have their father go to Gokarna and perform the Shradhh ritual in their memory.
• A day before Teej festival is famous as Dar Khane Din. On this day the married female are taken home by their brothers or parents. Then they celebrate this day with their father, mother and brothers. On this day the female member in the family is served with delicious dishes. The main/special dish for this day are Kheer (porridge) and other sweet items like Lal mohan, Ras bari ,etc
• Teej is another important festival of Hindu female. It is celebrated two days after no moon day. On this day the unmarried female fast to get a good and caring husband whereas married one fast for their husband’s long life. On this day hindu female visit the temple of lord Shiva. Thousands of female stay in line just to have a glimpse of Shiva Linga of Pashupatinath temple. In this festival thousands of female devotees come to Pashupatinath every year from all the parts of Nepal. The married women take food at night after they drink the water from their husband’s feet. But nowadays the culture of drinking water from husband’s feet is changing. They sing and dance the whole day. Most of the women appear on the dress of red color.
• Rishi Panchami is also the festival celebrated only by the Hindu female. It is celebrated just a day after Teej. In Hindu religion it is believed that the women become impure at the time of menstruation. It is regarded as the sin if the female touch any male during her menstruation period. So the festival is celebrated by all the female who get through menstruation. They celebrate this festival to get rid of all the sins committed during the year. On this festival female take a bath to clean their body. Soil is used to clean their body. Dattiyun is a plant that is very significant on this day. The female clean their tooth 365 times by the stem of this plant to clear all their sins. Then they organize small puja before they take any food.
• Generally Indra Jatra is celebrated in Bhadra month but due to various astrological reasons sometimes it is celebrated in the Ashwin month. This festival is celebrated in Kathmandu by the Newar community. Rain god (Indra) is celebrated in this festival so it is called Indra Jatra. This festival is celebrated for eight days. In Indra Jtra festival the chariot of Lord Bhairava, living goddess Kumari is pulled through the streets of Indrachok in Kathmandu. The festival starts with the erection of Linga (the wooden pole). This wooden pole is brought all the way from the forest of Panauti village. Lakhe dance is the main dance of this festival whereas Jaad (local wine) is the main dish served by the Newar locals.
• On Shora Shradhh the dead persons of the family are remembered. On those 16 days, Hindus (especially the adults and old) do not eat garlic, meat, and other foods until they complete the Shradhh of their dead family members. These foods are forbidden to cook inside the house during those 16 days. The 1st day of Shora Shradhh. On these 16 days we can see the crowd of people performing the rituals on the bank of the Baghmati River and other rivers.
• Ashwin 1st is celebrated as Biswakarma puja by all the workers. The festival is celebrated by the people of terai region. The people of terai origin working in Kathmandu valley also celebrate this festival. They make the satue of Baba Biswakarma and worship it and sail it away the next day in the nearby river.
A traditional Nepali Swing
• Dashain festival generally falls in the month of Ashwin. Dashain is the biggest festival of Nepal. The people celebrate this festival for 15 days. The festival starts from the no moon day. The first Nine days is celebrated as Navaratri. During these nine days people visit the temples of various goddesses. Especially, goddess Durga is celebrated in these 9 days. The first day is celebrated as Ghatasthpana. On this day people bring soil from the river and place it on their home near the statues of god. They sow barley, maize seeds and flowers in it. Then they worship it for next nine days. The 7th day of Dashain is known as Fulpati, the 8th day as Mahaastami, 9th day as Mahanawami and 10th day as Bijaya Dashami. On the 10th day they cut Jamara (the grass grown from the barley, maize seed). The tenth day is Bijaya Dashami (it means the day when lord Ram got victory over Ravan and returned to Ajodhya). On this day Tika and Jamara is received from the elders of the family. People go to their relatives to receive Tika for next five days. On the 15th day (full moon day) they sail away the Jamara in the rivers.
Tikas and Jamaras 4. Kartik (October / November) & Mangsir (November / December)
• On this month there comes second biggest festival of Hindu i.e. Tihar. Tihar is the festival of lights and color. Tihar is also known as Dipawali. This festival is celebrated for five days. The first day of Tihar is Kag Tihar. On this day Kag or crow is worshipped by giving sweets and delicious foods. 2nd day is Kukur Tihar. On this day Kukur or dog is worshipped. This day dog is garlanded with flowers and given delicious food. 3rd day is the no moon day. This day is known as Gai Tihar as well as Laxmi Puja. On this day Gai or Cow is worshipped in the morning and goddess Laxmi is worshipped in the evening. On the morning cow is garlanded and given flour, vegetables and other food. On this day they clean their house and decorate their house with flower and lights to welcome goddess of wealth, Laxmi. They offer sweets and fruits to the goddess Laxmi. At the evening Kids gather in a group to play Bhaili (especially female kids). They go door to door singing and dancing. On return they get sweets and money. Sel Roti is the special dish of Tihar festival.th day is known as Goru Tihar or Gobardhan Puja. On this day people worship Goru or Ox. People also make a Gobardhan Pahad of cow dung and worship it by milk, colors and flowers. On this day at evening time kids play Deusi. Same as in Bhaili, male kids play Deusi. They sing and dance at the doorstep of their neighbors and relatives. Neighbors and relatives give sweets and money to the kids. And in return the kids wish for their relatives and neighbors wellbeing. But nowadays youths and adults also play Deusi and Bhailo. The 5th and final day of Tihar is Bhai Tika. On this day sisters worship their brothers wishing them their long life. Sisters offer fruits and sweets to their brothers. Then they put Tika of seven different colors on their brother’s forehead. In return the brothers give gifts or money.
• Chhath is another important Hindu festival. This festival is celebrated by the people of terai region. But nowadays people in hilly region too have started celebrating this festival. Sun god (Surya devata in Nepali) is worshipped in this festival. This festival is celebrated on the fourth day after Bhai Tika. On the day of Chhath Parva, devotees worship the setting sun and the rising sun on the next day. They fast, sing song and stay awake the whole night until they worship the rising sun on the next day.
• On the fifth day after Chhath festival Nepali people celebrate Haribodhini Ekadashi. This day is dedicated to lord Vishnu. On this day people worship Vishnu and fast the whole day. The special food of this festival is Sakharkhanda and Pidalu.
Bala chaturdahi Festival
• Bala Chaturdashi is another important festival. Thousands of people gather around Pashupatinath temple premises. This area becomes over crowded on this day. The day before Bala Chaturdashi people gather around Pashupatinath temple and at the night time they light an oil lamp called “Madi”, in the memory of their dead family members. The people remain awake for the whole night to keep the oil lamp burning. In the morning of Bala Chaturdashi festival the lamp is thrown in the Baghmati River and then the people take bath in the river. After bath they start sowing Satbeej (seven seeds). They sow these seeds in and around the Pashuaptinath temple premises. This festival is an old Hindu tradition but this festival makes the temple area dirty.
Janaki Temple decorated for vibaha panchami festival
• Bibaha Panchami is the day when Lord Ram married Sita (princess of Janapur). This day is celebrated on the 5th day after no moon day of Mangsir month. On this day the marriage anniversary of Lord Ram and Sita is celebrated in Janakpur. Thousands of people gather in Bibaha Mandap (the place where Lord Ram and Sita got married). They sing and dance and enjoy the wedding anniversary. Lots of people from India come to Janaki temple to celebrate this festival. Till now there is a ritual of bringing a bride groom from Ajodhya, India (acting as Lord Ram) to marry a bride of Janakpur, Nepal (acting as Sita). To watch this ceremony thousands of people gather around Janaki temple. Janaki temple is decorated with flowers and lights. It is believed that the person’s wish would get fulfilled who visit Janaki temple on this day.
• Dhanne Purnima / Yomari Purnima is the festival celebrated especially by the Brahmins, Chhetris, and Newars. This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of Mangsir month. On this day Brahmins and Chhetris organize a Kul Puja (worshipping the family god). Kul Devata is regarded as the main god of their clan. Each clan has their separate Kul Devata. So on this day all the brothers of same clan gather together and sacrifice Boka (male goat) in order to please their Kul Devata. Vegetarian Brahmins and Chhetris offer fruits and coconut to please their family god. Yomari Purnima (Yomari Punhi as called by Newars) is a festival in which all the families of Newar community cook Yomari.
• Udhauli parva is the festival celebrated by kirat community people. They celebrate this day as the day of moving down. They also mark this day as the day when harvested crops are brought home. They sing and dance together to celebrate this festival.
5. Poush (December/January) & Magh (January/February)
• Tamu Lhosar is the festival celebrated by all the Gurung community people. This festival is celebrated on the 15th of Poush. Tamu Loshar marks the new year of Gurung community. On this day all the family members gather and enjoy by singing and dancing. enjoy the new year .
• Magh 1st is celebrated as Maghe Sakranti.. One day before maghe sakranti people boil yam and eat it the next day. Similarly, on this day they invite their friends and relatives and serve with delicious dishes. Special dish of this festival are Ghee, Chaku (cane sugar), Tarul (yam), Tilauri (ladoos made up of sesame). On the same day Magh 1st is celebrated s Maghi festival by the Tharu community of Nepal. On this festival the Tharu community people sing and dance as well as wear new clothes and have delicious food. The Tharu community sacrifices the animals on the eve of Maghi festival and enjoys the meat along with alcohol. Roti ad dhikri are the special dish of this festival.
• Magh month is a holy month for Hindus. From the full month of Magh Hindus start to read Swasthani Brata Katha. On this day people bring home the religious book of Swasthani goddess. Then they start reading this holy book every day till the next full moon. Some people fast for 1 month starting from the full moon of Magh to the next full moon. They fast for one month for their husband’s prosperous and well being. There is a fare for 1 month in Salinadi village, northeast of Kathmandu. Thousands of people go there every year to take a holy bath in Salinadi River. It is believed that Salinadi is the holy place where Goma Brahmadi (one of the character of the holy book Swasthani Brata Katha) had stayed during her hard time.
• Sonam Lhosar is the next day of the no moon day of Magh. Sonam Lhosar is the new year of Tamang community. They visit Buddhist monasteries and gumbas. They gather together and oraganize a great feast. The special dishes consumed in this festival are pork, chicken, ducks and various types of sweets.
• Saraswati Puja is another important festival of Hindu. In this festival all the students worship goddess Saraswati seeking blessings in their study life. Not only the students in school and colleges worship goddess saraswati but all the students of arts and crafts .They visit to the temples of goddess Saraswati and write their names on the wall of the temple. It is believed that the children will make progress in their study life if they start reading and writing on this day. So on this day people teach their children how to read and write. Students worship goddess Saraswati as well as the learning materials like books, pens, etc. Similarly, artists worship their instruments. Some interested people fast on this day to please goddess Saraswati.
6. Falgun (Febraury / March) & Chaitra (March / April)
• After a month the festive occasion of Swasthani Brata Katha ends. On the full moon day of Falgun the females end their month long fast. The fast lasts for a month. On this day all the Hindus organize small puja in their home and then with due respect throw the Holy book in the nearby river.
• Maha Shivaratri is one of the huge festivals of Hindu all around the globe. It is believed that lord Shiva was born on this day. On this Hindu people gather around the temples of Lord Shiva to celebrate the birthday of lord Shiva. More than 1,000 holy sages come from India to visit Pashupatinath temple. They make their stay in and around Pashupatinath temple. Naga Baba (the naked sage with ashes all over his body) can be seen inside Pashupatinath temple. On this day in Pashupatinath temple 4 big Puja is organized. Lord Shiva is regarded as the lord of all the gods. Hence all the Hindus show give huge importance to this festival. All the youths, adults and olds celebrate this festival. Thousands of people visit Pashupatinath temple on this day. The consumption of ganja is legal for this day. Because ganja (hashish) is among one of the favorites of Lord Shiva. This festival is giving freedom to the youths to get addicted to the cigarettes, hashish (ganja), etc. Many youths can be seen buying ganja with the holy sage coming from India.
• Gyalpo Lhosar is also one of the important festivals for the Sherpas, Tamangs, and other Tibetan sects. This day marks the Tibetan New Year. On this day the people clean their houses, sing, dance and eat a special kind of soup. The people visit monasteries and gumbas.
• Fagu Purnima falls on the full moon day. Fagu Purnima s also famous by the name Holi. Fagu Purnima is the festival of color and water. The people play with color and water. They put color in each other’s faces as well as decorate their faces with various colors. They fill water in balloons and plastics to hit others. There is a tradition to erect a bamboo pillar at Basantapur before Holi. Then on the eve of this festival the erected pillar is pulled and burnt down. In terai region of Nepal, this festival is celebrated on the next day of full moon day.
• Ram Nawami is another religious festival of Nepal. This day is believed to be the birth day of Lord Ram. Lord Ram is regarded as one of the incarnation of lord Vishnu. On this day Hindus visit the temples of lord Rama and worship lord Ram by offering various sweets, fruits and flowers.
• Chaite Dashain is also known as Sano Dashain. On this day Hindus worship goddess Durga. On this day various animals are sacrificed in the temples of goddess Durga. The people make get together on this day and organize a great feast. Long time ago Dashain festival was celebrated in the Chaitra month. But, this festival was moved to Ashwin month because many people suffered from diarrhea and cholera after having lots of oily foods and meats.
• Seto Machhindranath Jatra is another great festival for the Newars of Kathmandu. They prepare the chariot of Machhindranath (the rain god) and pull it through the streets of Kathmandu. The chariot of Machhindranath is prepared and designed at Tindhare pathsala and then pulled through the streets of Ghantaghar, Ratnapark, Bhotahity, Ason, Indrachok, Basantapur, Jaisidewal, Lagan, etc. On this festival locals drink liquors, sing and dance. The famous Newari dance Dhime dance is performed during this festival.
These are the major festivals celebrated in Nepal. Apart from these there are many other festivals celebrated in Nepal. There are various festivals celebrated only in certain regions, in certain valleys and by certain communities. So, it is impossible to list all those festivals. Nepalese are very friendly in nature. You will love their hospitality and friendly behavior. You will find it easy to indulge into their family lives and their social lives. You will be warmly welcomed and will be treated as a family member. Your participation in their local festivals will be widely appreciated. Visit Nepal and enjoy the feelings of home away from home.