Some Popular Festivals in Nepal:
Basanta Panchami (Feb):
Basanta Panchami marks the advent of spring. This day is dedicated to Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of music and learning. Temples housing Saraswati wear an especially festive look on this day. Devotees throng these shrines to seek blessings for the success of their ventures. The most joyous observances take place near Swayambhu, at the Saraswati temple courtyard to the west of the large stupa. The faithful assembled there represent all sections of society. Artisans offer worship to enhance their skills and students pray for success in their studies. Buddhists worship the deity as Manjushree. A grand ceremony is also held at the Hanuman Dhoka Palace.
The night of Lord Shiva, Mahashivaratri, is dedicated to the God of Regeneration, a part of the Hindu trident (Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Protector, and Shiva the Destroyer of Evil), is celebrated all over Nepal, but most spectacularly at the Pashupatinath temple in the capital. Thousands of devotees gather in prayer and reverence, amidst holy men and priests in absolute homage to the master of all living beings, Lord Shiva. An entire night is spent on the banks of the Bagmati River and the temple precincts, lighting sacred fires, and singing devotional songs while temple priests commence rituals and ceremonial offerings at the midnight hour. At daybreak, devotees take a customary dip in the river to purify their bodies and souls. Palms cupped with water from the river are then offered to the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva, along with offerings of rice, vermillion, fruits, flowers and coins.
"Lha gyal Iho" (May the gods be victorious) is the New Year greeting offered in a booming chorus by the Tibetan and Sherpa communities of Nepal. Beneath the benevolent eyes of the Buddha painted on Bouddhanath's huge stupa spire, a shower of tsampa (roasted barely flour) thrown skyward settles over the crowd gathered here to celebrate the Tibetan. New Year or Losar, on the first day of Losar, cries of "Tashi Delek" fill the air as families wish each other a happy new year with the traditional salutation bestowing love, luck and good fortune. On the third day, the entire Tibetan community gathers for a colorful ceremony to collectively bring in the New Year. Wearing traditional dress, the crowd gathers at Bouddha to watch as Buddhist monks from nearby monasteries from a procession around the large stupa.
Holi (The festival of colors)
Holi, also known as the festival of colors, is celebrated across the country for eight days. It marks the happy demise of Holika, a malevolent demoness, at the hands of Lord Bishnu. Revelers mark the occasion by smearing colored powder and throwing colored water at each other. In Kathmandu, a ceremonial pole (chir) is raised in front of the Kumari Chhen at Durbar Square to announce the beginning of the revelry. The pole, decorated with fluttering strips of colored cloth, is pulled up amid the cheering of the crowd gathered around. Gunfire and traditional music echo in the air. The colorful strips of cloth are said to symbolize the divine flames that turned Holika and her demonic intentions into ashes.
Also on the full moon night of Holi, Jyapu farmers of Kathmandu leave a feast of rice and the middle of the Tundikhel parade ground for the giant Gurumapa. Long long ago, the giant used to terrorize city-dwellers by snatching away their children and was persuaded to give up his ways with the promise of a yearly banquet.
In the Terai, the southern plains of Nepal, Holi climaxes of March 2.
Buddha Jayanthi (April):
Buddha Jayanti commemorates three important events in the Buddha's live-his birth enlightenment and nirvana. The Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha in Lumbini of southern Nepal on this full moon day over 2,500 years ago. And it was on this same full moon day that he attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya and passed away into nirvana at Kusinagar of India.
In the Kathmandu Valley, the festival is also known as Swanya Punhi, or the full moon day of flowers. The main ceremonies take place around the massive stupa of Swayambhu situated atop a hillock to the west of the city. From early in the morning, devotees can be seen thronging the shrine with musical bands. Offerings of butter lamps, incense and rice are made to the many Buddha images there. Prayer ceremonies are held and Bajracharya priests perform ancient ritual dances. Sacred paubha scroll paintings and Buddha images are put on display.
Indra Jatra (Aug/Sept):
It is celebrated both by Hindus and Buddhist with great enthusiasm. The festival continues for eight days. During these days, there is much rejoicing, dancing and feasts. On the first day, a long wooden pole is erected before the ancient Royal Palace at Hanuman Dhoka, in order to propitiate the great god Indra-"The God of Rain". Classical dancers assemble here wearing different kinds of masks and dance around the courtyard of Hanuman Dhoka to celebrate the visit of God Indra against the background of glided pagodas. On the third day of the festival the living Goddess is taken out in procession on a chariot. Three chariots of Kumari, Ganesh and Bhairav are taken round the city for three days.
Teej is a Hindu festival celebrated by women. This is a special festival for married women who are supposed to fast all day and bathe in the holy waters of the rivers. Dancing, singing devotional and folk's songs and wearing red colored Sari (attire) dominates the day of Teej. Women visit Shiva temples where married ones pray for a happy conjugal life and the unmarried for a good husband.
It is truly the national festival of Nepal and the most auspicious occasion for the Nepalese people. The Nepalese cherish their Dashain as a time for eating well and dressing well. Each house sets up shrines to worship the goddess at this time. Barely seeds are planted on the first day in every household and nurtured for nine days. During this period Goddess Durga Bhawani is worshipped and offered a lot of blood sacrifices. Buffaloes, goats, chicken and ducks are killed by the thousands at the temples, at military posts, and every household. Final day of the festival called Tika. The elders of the family give Tika to their members and to other relatives who come to seek blessings.
Tihar is probably Nepal's second most
important festival after Dashain. It is also known as 'The Festival of Lights'. It is celebrated for 5 days and Hindu people worships Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. On the final day of Tihar every sisters worships her brothers and pray to Yama, the god of death, for their brother's progress, prosperity and longevity. Sisters put multi-colored Tika on the brothers' forehead and garland them with flowers. The brothers, in turn, give Tika to their sisters after which gifts are exchanged. Like Dashain, Tihar ends with a grand feast with all the family members together.
Mani Rimdu (October/November):
It is the greatest festival of the Sherpas observed in the Khumbu region of Nepal. It is held annually at Tengboche and Chiwong monasteries during October or early December and at Thame Gompa each May. The ceremonies start with the blowing of horns by Buddhist monks accompanied by the chief Lama and other monks in their maroon robes. An orchestra of cymbals, horns, flutes and conch shells announces the start of the celebrations. Then, it follows the masked dances at the stage, symbolizing the destruction of evil forces.