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Festivals in Nepal

Festivals in Nepal begin with religion, ending as social event. There are more than 50 major festivals in a year celebrated by Nepalis. Although most of these festivals are religious some have historical significance, while others are seasonal celebrations.

The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati's victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.

It is not hard to catch colorful processions in different streets of the Valley almost every other day of the week. Cultural acts of dances and songs are integral parts of some celebrations while some celebrations are just quiet family gatherings. Grand celebrations like Ghode Jatra and Gai Jatra entertain participants and spectators every year.

Teej, one of the heartiest festivals of Nepali women, has once again knocked in, albeit the mood of the nation is quite not buoyant. Famous it, of course, is as a festival of delicious food, songs and dances, 'women fashion' draped in red color and --of warm wishes shared among the loved ones. For Nepali women in particular, Teej, at the least, is the festival of the their identity.

As song and dances are the p1art and parcel of Teej, women in their usual course of singing and dancing tend not only to pour out their pangs and the inequalities prevalent around them, but also tend to communicate with our times.

Along with the passion attached to it, for womenfolk, the festival has vast connotation in terms of conjugal prosperity. Married women take to daylong fasting - which is preceded and followed by an eating binge - for the sake of longevity and blissful marital life.

The overall picture of the country is certainly not rosy. In fact it appears dreadful with 12,000 Nepalis losing their lives in the decade-old conflict. Some have died by the bullets of the Maoists and others lost their lives at the hands of the government's security forces.

Being at the receiving end, women, for sure, are the ones who have felt the burnt most in the ongoing conflict. Thousands of women have been widowed and are living in heightened austerity coupled with the social ignominy widowhood brings with it.

Times are just as gloomy as this Teej song sang by popular folk singer Hari Devi Koirala, aptly describes:

"Sabko manma piraipir chha ke gaune ho geet pani
Roeko man jhan ruwana aaipugyo Teej pani"

Previous Teej songs used to be mostly about token complaints of women - necessarily against uncouth mother-in-laws and wayward husbands or about other petty grievances - but there has been a marked change in the tone and theme of Teej songs since past few years. Koirala's another recorded song, which is heard in Teej functions these days, depicts the horror of war:

"Naachne gaune maidanama ragatako khola chhan
Madal bajna chhodisake barud gola chhan"

Some songs have revolutionary colour in them, marking a clear departure from the traditional pattern. Such songs are either about protest of a daughter against her father for the infringement of her right to education or of awareness on girls trafficking. Pangs and sufferings of thousands of Nepali girls who have been lured or forced to work in brothels in India have found wide space in Teej songs. Just note the undertone of protest against the criminals:

"Yo deshama janmera tyo kothiko marana
Cheli bechne paapiko chhala kadhana"

Teej songs also commonly cover major events and incidents occurring in the country during the year. In 2058 B.S, for instance, a number of recorded Teej songs were based on the ghastly Royal Palace massacre.

It's exactly not known when the singing and dancing on the occasion of Teej festival started, though, predictably, it is there since time immemorial. As the fate of Nepali women has seen little change since ages, women just keep on cherishing this festival as their own - a festival that brings with it the pretext for breaking free from their humdrum, arduous household works, not to mention the exploitation, -and give voice to their plights, wishes and aspirations.

First Teej song album 'Teejko Kosheli Bhag 1 " was released in 2045 B.S, a combined work of Hari Devi Koirala and Chandra Kala Shah. Encouraged by the popularity of that album many singers tried their hands in Teej songs. Since then, according to recording

INDRA JATRA 17 September
Indra, the King of Heaven and controller of the rains, has once again blessed the Valley. As the end of the monsoon nears, farmers look forward to a rich harvest. Everyone is grateful to the god for his help. For eight days, Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is the focus of a great celebration fit to flatter the King of Heaven. “Indra’s dhwaj, or flag, is erected on the first day. The people of Kathmandu have dedicated one of most colorful festivals of Nepal to Lord Indra. Masks and statues representing Vishnu, Bhairab, and Shiva are shown to the public, and the Goddess Kumari witnesses the special occasion from her chariot. Indra is thanked for the rains and assured once again that he is respected in the Kathmandu Valley.

Seto(white) Machhindranath is a week-long festival, where in the god Machindranath is bathed, and decorated. There are rituals of music and offerings from the devotees to receive blessings of rainfall for the coming planting season. The living goddess Kumari also pays him a visit during this festival.

During this important festival, the old kingdom of Bhaktapur and its neighboring areas replay a drama passed on over the centuries. Images of wrathful and somewhat demonic deities are placed on tottering chariots. They are offered blood sacrifices, flowers, and coins. Men brimming with youthful vigor and rice beer drag the chariots across brick-paved streets of the town. At Bode village, there is a tongue-boring ceremony in which the dedicated may reserve a place in heaven.
New Year

The Nepalese follow their own calendar system known as the Bikram Era or Bikram Sambat. Nawabarsha is celebrated on the first day of the first month of new year and is observed as an official holiday. In Bhaktapur, fifteen kilometers from Kathmandu, the New Year celebrations take on added importance at Bisket Jatra. Images of the god Bhairav and his female counterpart Bhadrakali are enshrined in two large chariots and pulled through crowds of cheering on lookers. When the chariot reaches a sloping open square, there is a tug-of-war between the inhabitants 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.

This festival takes place in Patan. During the celebrations the towering chariot of Lord Machhendranath 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 add even more excitement to the occasion. Over the period of several weeks, the chariot is slowly hauled to Jawalakhel where thousands of devotees burn oil lamps and keep an all-night vigil. During this chariot festival the Bhoto or Sacred waistcoat, itself the subject to many legends, is displayed from the chariot. A final ritual is then conducted to mark Lord Macheendranathâ €™s yearly return to his home in the nearby village of Bungmati.

Basanta Panchami, another festival of spring, where crowds gather at Kathmandu’s Durbar Square while His Majesty the King and other dignitaries welcome the season as a band plays the traditional song of spring. The goddess of knowledge, Saraswati is worshipped in this particular day, where different celebration occurs at Swayambhu and at the Nil Barahi shrine near Lazimpat..

In the holy month of Magh (Jan-Feb) the sun enters the southern hemisphere, and the days begin to grow longer and warmer. On Maghe Sankranti (the first day of Magh) people perform rituals to thank Lord Vishnu for spring. People celebrate the start of spring with early morning visit to the shrines of Vishnu. Taking feasts of yams and laddu, sweets made of sesame and a sugarcane paste is a special part of the festival.

Goddess Swasthani’s three eyes burn like the sun. She is the ultimate gift grantor, if insulted, she can make life miserable. By worshipping Swasthani, Parbati attained Lord Shiva as her husband. In the worship rites of Goddess Swasthani, outlined by Parbati, the Swasthani scripture is read every evening for a month. Worshipping Swasthani will bring together parted relations, remove curses, and result in limitless gifts.

Ever-benevolent Buddha was born in Nepal, and the religion he preached is the second most popular in the kingdom. On May 23, a full moon day, the Lord’s birth, enlightenment, and salvation are applauded throughout the valley with celebrations. Swayambhu and Boudhanath Stupas are prepared for the oncoming festivities several days in advance. Monasteries are cleaned, statues are polished, bright prayer flags waft in the breeze and monks prepare to dance. On the Jayanti day, people reach the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the many Buddha images there.

Buddha Jayanti Festival Package Tour

The monsoon has arrived, and the fields have been planted. It is time for Kathmandu Valley Buddhists to observe Gunla. The month-long festivities celebrate a retreat â€" initiated twenty-five centuries ago by the Buddha. It is a time for prayer, fasting, meditation and religious music. Worshippers climb up to Swayambhu’s hilltop where daily prayers begin before dawn. The teachings of Lord Buddha are remembered as the rains nurture the rice, Nepal’s most important crop.

On Janai Purnima, a full moon day, high-caste Hindus chant the powerful Gayatri mantra and change their Sacred Thread (janai), while a raksya bandhan, a red or yellow protection cord, is tied around the wrists of other Hindus and Buddhists. Pilgrims journey to the mountains north of Kathmandu to take a holy bath in the sacred lake of Gosaikund.

Cow (Gai), is considered holy to Hindus and she represents Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and guides the souls of the departed to the gates of the Netherworld. But Gai Jatra is not a somber occasion. Satire, jokes, fancy costumes, and colorful processions are the order of the day as people recall how an eighteenth-century king rallied his people to cheer his queen upon the death of their son. Those who have experienced the death of close ones during the past year share their sorrow and take comfort in the fact that the cow has safely transported the departed souls on their afterlife journey. Young men clad in women’s saris, children dressed up as cows, and whimsical characters of all sorts fill the streets. It is also an opportunity for the people to make comedic political satires out in the open.

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, decorated statues and pictures of Lord Krishna through the streets, often with bands of musicians following or preceding the procession. In Patan, thousands of devotees flock to the Krishna temple to worship and receive blessings.

All the people of the Hindu world know the story of the marriage of the hero Ram and the princess Sita, a told in the epic Ramayana. King Janak, Sita’s father, proposed a test of strength for the suitors of his daughter; to string the great bow of Lord Shiva. It was Ram, who successfully completed the task winning the hand of Princess of Sita.This event took place in Janakpur in southern part of Nepal, and their marriage is celebrated to this day. Each year, idols of Ram and Sita are brought out in procession and their Hindu wedding ceremony is re-enacted during a week-long religious fair.

[ Bibaha Panchami Festival Package Tour ]

This simple, festive day takes place in the ancient forest surrounding the temple of Pashupatinath. It is one of the oldest traditions of the Valley. Families who have lost of loved one in the last year keep an all-night vigil in the forest, lighting oil lamps and singing songs. Following a ritual morning bath, people walk through the forest, scattering seven types of grain along the paths and over the linga of Lord Shiva to give merit to their late kinsmen.

Dashain is the most significant and well celebrated festival of Nepal. An official holiday is announced for five day. The skies of Kathmandu are filled with kites and the market places are filled with farmers bringing their buffaloes, goats and chickens to sell. The animals are to be sacrificed on the night of Kal Ratri to the goddess Durga to celebrate her victory over evil. On the 10th day, which is the most important day of the festival, people show their best dressed in new clothes. Family reunions occur, with people busy visiting their relative for blessing where they receive large red tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. It is a special time for family reunion.

About Tihar : The Nepali festival Tihar is also known by many names such as Dipawali or Bhai Tika or Laxmi Puja or as a festival of lights. It is a five-days festival, which comes soon after the Dashain Festival, and Tihar is all about worshiping of different animals such as crow, dog, cow, and worshiping of the Hindu Goddess of Fortune or Wealth (Goddess Laxmi), and cooking great meals at home, brothers and sisters shopping for gifts, flying kites, decorating homes and streets, playing cards with friends, resting and relaxing, and finally ending the festival with an exchange of a special temporary mark on forehead (tika in Nepali). The last day of the festival is known as Tika day or popularly known as Bhai Tika day (Bhai in Nepali means Brother). To sum up Tihar festival, Tihar is the festival when sisters wish a long life to their brothers (Bhai)!

Tihar is a festival for brothers and sisters, but What if you are a brother without a sister or a sister without a brother. Well, you can make one by accepting someone close to you in your relatives. If nothing works, you find one among your friends and neighbors, it becomes almost as if it was real. Whom ever you made your sister or brother remains so for life, and each year this festival makes your bond stronger. Tihar is a festival of sisters wishing a long life to their brothers, and Tihar is the most popular festival in Nepal. So hold on to your topi (hat), loads of excitement and fun are coming at you now!

Tihar and Crows (1st Tihar Day) - Here comes Tihar to teach you a lesson! Early in the morning of the first day of Tihar, family prepares a good meal. Each member of the family takes the first portion of the meal outside on a platter. The crows come down in large numbers and partake of the feast, they will call others before beginning to eat : Share, Share what you have with all! Crows (Kag in Nepali) are considered as the messenger of the Lord of Death, Yama. There is a popular Nepali superstition of crows too: When the crows caw, sadness is coming.) On this day crows are worshiped and are kept happy. Where there are no crows, any winged animal of the heavens (bird) will enjoy the feast. So Tihar is also about appreciating animals around us.

Day 02 : Tihar and Dogs (2nd Tihar Day) - On the second day of Tihar, Kukur (Dogs) are adorned with flower garland around their necks, red tika on their forehead, and are offered great meals, they are the king of the day! On this day, people pray to the Kukur to guard their homes. Call someone "Kukur", he/she will bash you instantly! There are lots of Kukur running around in search of a loving home, you can find them on streets and in your backyards, but on this day, even the most unsightly Kukkur will be treated like a king, everyone has a day! Tihar is also about breaking the boundaries only men created, "The Good", "The Bad", "The Ugly", and all but same to the mother nature! In Hinduism it is believed that Kukur guard's the underworld empire just like it guards our everyday homes!. Tihar is about loving Kukurs too!

Day 03 : Tihar and Cows (3rd Tihar Day) - The 3rd day of Tihar is about worshiping the mother of the universe - cow. According to Hinduism, the human infant is fed breast milk by its human mother for under three years. After weaning, the cow acts as the surrogate mother providing milk for the rest of the human life - through childhood, adult age and old age. Cows are the mothers of the universe, the sacred animal. The cow puja is performed by giving a tika to a cow on her forehead, and a flower garland (Flower Leis) on the neck, and offering good meals. Those performing Cow puja place her manure in different parts of the home, drink a drop or two of the cow's urine, as a part of a purification process. Also dip a blade of grass into the urine and lightly sprinkle it on each other's body to become closer to the mother of the universe - cow.

Tihar and Laxmi Puja - One of the most important day of the festival is Laxmi Puja on which day the Goddess of wealth (Laxmi) is worshiped in every household in the entire Nepali Kingdom by means of Puja, decoration, candle lights, and oil lamps. In this 3rd day of the Tihar Festival, the entire nation becomes an illumination of lights. Pictures and icons of Laxmi Devi (Goddess) are placed and worshiped in a Puja room (or a place in a living room or a dedicated room for worshiping Gods) Puja is performed using flowers, incense, oil lamps, color-powders, bell and money (both notes and coins). Laxmi puja is performed at dusk using red mud, and puja is often done by a female in the family. She uses her hand covered with red mud to make a symbolic foot-print on the floor entering the home and makes a trail leading to the Puja room.

Laxmi Puja is not only for households but is equally done by Companies. Business-Laxmi-Puja is done exactly the same way as is done in home. Usually company's cashier performs the puja during which time the entire office including office compounds are lit with various lights including electrical, candle lights, and oil lamps and usually staffs are invited to participate in the puja procession.

"Tihar and Songs : Bhailini Songs (3rd Day) : The eve of Laxmi Puja Day is made spectacular not only by lights but also by echos of a special song known as Bhailo or Bhailini that's played only on this day in the entire year! A group of girls get together and sing Bhailo door to door, giving blessings to the family in return for money or homemade treats.

Tihar and Songs : Deusi Songs (4th Day) Male members sing what is called Deusi or Deusuray in Nepali. You can write just about any Deusi song as long as each line ends with the word `Deusi' or `Deosuray'. A group of males get together, carry what-ever musical instruments they have or can play, and sing Deusi door to door blessing the home and family in return for money and/or refreshments. Teenagers perform various Deosi songs to collect money for their picnic! Some may play Deusi to collect money to build a new trail in a far away village in Nepal! During the Tihar festival the only kind of songs you are most likely to hear from local Radio stations are nothing but Tihar Songs, Bhailo, Deusi and folk songs about sisters or brothers unable to see each other during the festival due to various reasons. A poor sister, now a daughter-in-law may not get even a day's break to visit her brother on this special day, and she might sing a song to make your tears flow!

A Sample of Deusi Song. Includes a similar meaning in English
Bhana Mera Bhaiho Deusuray. (Say it my brothers, Say it. Deusuray)
Sormelai Kana Deusuray. (Say it louder and say it in tune. Deusuray)
Rato Matoo Deusuray. (Red mud trail. Deusuray)
Chiploa Batoo Desuray. (Slippery trail. Deusuray)
Laddai Paddai Deusuray. (Slipping and Sliding. Deusuray)
Akeya Hami Deusuray. (Finally we made it to your home! Deusuray)
.... .... Deusuray
.... .... Deusuray
.... .... Deusuray

Yo Garma Laxmi Deusuray. (In this home Lord Laxmi. Deusuray)
Sadthai Aun Deusuray. (Always come. Deusuray)
Hamilai Denus Deusuray. (Give us what you have money or meal)
Bidtha Garnus Deusuray. (Please give us now, say good bye to us, so we sing for next home!)

(For an audio sample, visit at the end of this page!

Tihar and Myself! (4th Day) - The fourth day of the Tihar is also about worshiping yourself. This puja (worshiping) is known as as Mahapuja. This is also the first day of the special annual calendar of an ethnic group known as Newar residing in Nepal. The coming of a new year is also celebrated in Tihar. Also a popular ritual of the day is the Govardhan puja or Goru Tihar (Oxen Worshiping). Oxen are worshiped on this day as they till lands and help grow crops to sustain life.

Day 05 : Tihar and Tika (5th and Final Tihar Day / Bhai Tika Day) : On the final day also known as Bhai Tika Day, sisters give tika (a colored powder placed on once's forehead), and mala (a necklace of flowers or also known as as flower leis, similar to that's used elsewhere like in Hawaii!) to brothers along with wishes for long life and prosperity.
To sisters, Tihar is also the time to re-call their continued wish for a long and a happy life for their brothers. Brothers sit on a floor while sisters perform their puja. Puja involves following a traditional ritual in which sisters circle brothers three times dripping oil on the floor from a copper pitcher. Afterwards, sisters put oil in brother's ears and hairs, then give Tika. Also breaking of walnuts by sisters prior to giving Tika to brothers is also a common practice. Tika starts with placing a banana leave already cut into a line shape placed on brothers forehead held by one of the sisters hand, then applying tika base (made from rice paste) in the open space. Then sister dabs seven colors on top of the base using her fingers. Some may give tika with the help of a small stick or a brush without the using banana leaves. In this case, small stick is dipped into the tika base, then brushed vertically on the forehead, then using a different stick, the seven colors are applied on top of the base. After tika, flower garland is put around brother's neck. Then brothers give tika to sisters in the same fashion. Sisters also receive flower garland around their neck. Brothers give gifts such as clothes or money to sisters while sisters give a special gift known as Sagun (which is made of dried fruits and nuts, and candies), and a fantastic Tihar feast takes place. Those without a sister or brother, join relatives or friends for tika. Sisters pray for their brother's long life to the Hindu God of Death (Yam Raj).

INDRA JATRA 17 September
Loser festival is celebrated to commemorate the advent of new year. It is the Ladakhi or Tibetan new year. The festival is celebrated for 2 weeks during the month of December and january as per the lunar calendar. The festival is marked with ancient rituals,the stage fights between good & evil, chanting and passing through the crowds with fire torches. The dance of the Ibex deer and the dramatic battles between the King & his ministers add to the joyous atmosphere. This festival is full of music, dancing and merry-making.

Origin, Significance and Legends Kings hate to miss New Year parties, too. Singme Namgyar, king of Sikkim, brought the Buddhist New Year celebrations forward by a month because he was going to be out at war on New Year's day!

Even today, Sonam Losar, the Buddhist New Year festival in Sikkim, begins a month before the Buddhist New Year. Tibetans and other Buddhists in India kick off Losar festivities a month later - a week before new year's day, in fact.

For all Buddhists, Losar is a sacred time and a time for feasting and celebration. It is a time to be with the family, and a time to ensure that bad omens are not carried into the new year.

Rituals Homes are painted, new clothes are stitched, debts and quarrels are resolved, good food is cooked, and intoxicants are drunk in the run-up to New Year's day. Homes are decorated with flour paintings of the sun and moon, and small lamps illuminate the house at night.

The first few days of festivities are exclusively family affairs, as are the first days of the new year. Later, the festivities roll out onto the streets. Tab-zan, a special bread, features in the family meals.

In Sikkim, on the fifth day of Losar, a special broth of boiled barley grains, peas and the stomach of a sheep, is prepared. Dib rug, a dish made by stuffing sheep intestines with barley dough kneaded in sheep blood, is another speciality during Losar.

In the night, the swishing sound of burning torches can be heard around a Buddhist home, as menfolk whirl flaming torches over their heads in an effort to ward off evil spirits, sickness, dog bites and other misfortunes from striking their family in the new year.

Since the new year is on the cards, Buddhist families take special care to ensure that positive things happen all the time. So, the ceremonies are umpteen.

In Sikkim, a male and female goat are sacrificed after a purification ceremony in which the animals are washed, their ears are stitched with ribbon, their bodies are smeared red, and they are made to drink the local brew, chang.

In another ceremony named Mesol, the family visit the resting places of their ancestors, light a lamp, and offer food and drinks. The family then eat the food, which is considered blessed. In some homes, the men race through the house firing guns or crackers. Costume dramas are performed. Archery contests and horse races are held. And everywhere, chang flows.

On the morning of the new year, families rise before dawn, bathe, put on new clothes and fine jewellery. Offerings of barley flour mixed with butter and sugar and yogurt are then made at the family shrine. This represents the hope for a good grain harvest. After a visit to local monasteries, the family settles down to feasting and drinking.

The Bagmati River flows close by and the Arya Ghat cremation grounds are here. We strongly advise photographers not to take photos of cremations and of bereaved families. Sadhus, sages who follow the lifestyle of Shiva, may be seen covered in ashes and loin- cloths. They ask for money in case you want to take their photos. The main Pashupatinath courtyard may be entered by those of Hindu faith only.

Revering Lord of all Lords-Shiva
Of the four Ratris (night), Shivaratri - one of the major Hindu festivals- is a night of fasting and prayer in honour of Lord Shiva. According to Hindu Mythology; Brahma is the creator, Bishnu is the preserver and Lord Shiva is the God of Destruction and thus is sometimes described as God of all Gods. The devotees in their prayer ask Lord Shiva to wash away all the sins they have committed.

Mahashivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva himself was created by his own divine grace. Hindus all over the world celebrate the festival with zeal and enthusiasm. The devotees from all parts of the country as well as neighbouring countries throng to Pashupatinath. Literally 'the lord of animals' Pashupatinath is one of the many forms of Lord Shiva.

Legend say, most of the devotees go to worship literally to wrangle with the God for their wishes to be fulfilled. In the dawn devotees take a holy bath in Bagmati river and then they have to stand in a long queue to enter into the temple for worship. Since early hours, the vicinity of Pashupatinath is seen bustling with the crowd of devotees and spectators.

One of the highlights during Mahashivaratri is the number of sadhus who throng to Pasupatinath, not only from across the country but also from the neighbouring countries. Different type of sadhus could be seen around who are one of the rare sights for many. This year, Marwadi Sewa Samittee along with other special welfare organizations has managed the accommodation of these people.

"More than 400 sadhus already arrived here," says Ram Prasad Dahal, member, Pashupati Area Development Trust. According to Dahal, more than 1,700 sadhus and babas had visited last year.

Hemp, an intoxicating substance that Lord Shiva is touted to enjoy the most is considered to be prasad hence people believe that it is one of the constituent of holy prasad and some could be seen around in search of it - most of them handing around the sadhus as they are supposed to be the main possessors. A 441-member Mahashivaratri Management Committee 2061 and nine sub-committees under it have been formed to manage the festival this year.

Dahal says, "Sixteen hundred volunteers from Nepal Scout and 34 various organisations will be mobilized on the day to take care of the various things. Three passageways have been fixed to enter the temple."

As per this year's arrangement, around 150 devotees will be able to worship per minute while all the four doors are open, informs Dahal. The committee estimates around 1,50,000 devotees to turn up to mark the day.


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