Phagu Purnima or Holi
Holi or Phagu is the festival of merrymaking. It is celebrated on the full moon day of the month of Phagun (Feb-March). On this occasion the streets of Tansen become wild with frolic and fun as the groups of boys and girls toss handfuls of bright red and other colour-powder, ballons filled with coloured water at passers by. The innocent observers are compelled to join their merry pranks and be target of mischievous attacks. In villages the festival of Phagu starts with the installation of a ceremonial pole, called "Chir", with stripes of coloured cloth hung to it.
Holi revellers in small and large groups roan the streets smearing each other by-standers with colourful powder. Groups of singers and dancers go round the town singing Phagu songs. Children throw colourful powder and water over these singers and dancers and they are given money and grains.
Shiva Ratri is the night of Lord Shiva when He himself was created by His own Divine Grace and Hindus all over the world celebrate this day with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. Shiva Ratri literally means ' the night consecrated to Shiva'. This auspicious festival falls on the fourteenth day of the waning moon in the month of Falgun, (February - March in the Gregorian calendar ). The temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu which is considered as one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus, glorifying Lord Shiva, thus receives more than 100,000 worshippers during the festival of Shiva Ratri. These worshippers come from far and wide to pay their respects and homage to Mahadev on his sacred day.
Pashupatinath temple is located at the eastern part of the Kathmandu valley on the banks of the holy river Bagmati. Pashupatinath, which literally means ‘the Lord of animals’, is one of the many forms of the Lord. He is the guardian deity, protector of our Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, thus Shiva Ratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal. Pilgrims from all over Nepal as Pashupatinath Temple well as India come to Pashupatinath to worship and pray to the deity on his birthday and wash away all the sins committed by them. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple and tourists are only permitted to observe the festival from across the Bagmati river.
Shiva Ratri is a much anticipated festival by all Hindus. Pilgrims and yogis (holy men), from all over Southeast Asia come to Kathmandu weeks before the festival. On this holy day people fast through out the day. At dawn, worshippers take a holy bath or dip in the river and go to the temple to worship.
One of the interesting aspects of Shiva Ratri is that on this day devotees and non-devotees alike freely indulge in smoking intoxicating substances such as marijuana and bhang for it is the only day in the annual calendar when marijuana is legal. Many people take these intoxicants in the belief that it pleases Lord Shiva for he too is said to be fond of it. Thus marijuana is taken as prasad, holy food blessed by the Gods and one can see eager tourists and faithful Nepalese flocking around the temple complex of the Ram Janaki Mandir across the Bagmati river opposite to the main temple complex of Pashupatinath lingering around sadhus and babas in the hope for some prasad from them.
The Puran, one of the many holy texts of the Hindus, tells us that if you worship Lord Shiva on this day all your sins will be forgiven. Giving an examle the puran talks about an event that occurred ages before about a hunter from Benares. This man worshipped Lord Shiva unknowingly on Shiva Ratri and he was forgiven for all his sins.
On Shiva Ratri the temple of Pashupatinath is filled with worshippers. Devotees are not distinguished as poor or rich but treated equally for Lord Shiva treats us all equally. Even the King of Nepal and the royal family pay homage to the Pashupatunath on this day along with the thousands that gather to celebrate the festival. Thus the festival of Shiva Ratri shows the devotion and faith Nepalese have towards the Hindu religion.
Bhaktapur Municipality to hike entry fee to Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Municipality has decided to increase entry fee for foreign tourists visiting the country from the very first day of Nepal Tourism Year 2011. Municipality sources say the entry fee is almost 100 percent higher than what the municipality has been collecting at present. The municipality will charge Rs 100 as entry fee for visitors from SAARC countries and Rs 1,000 from visitors from other countries from Today 1 st January 2011.
Bhaktapur, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley, is popular among foreign visitors for historic temples, palace complexes and ancient art, culture and tradition.
Manarimdu Festival in Tangboche Monastry Everest Region
Mani Rimdu is the most important festival in Tengboche. Trips to the Everest region can be rewarding if they can be organized during the days of the festival. It consists of nine days of ceremonies and meditation (Drupchen). This is concluded by a special blessing ceremony given by Tengboche Rinpoche to the public and the world renowned Mask Dances performed by the monks at Tengboche Monastery.
The following are the approximate dates of Mani Rimdu events this year based on the Tibetan lunar calendar.
• Preparations including making the sand Mandala and Tormas
• Drupchen ceremonies
• Monks practice dancing without masks
• Giving the blessing to the general public (Wang)
• Famous Mask Dances preformed by the monks in a special day long ceremony. Afterwards the Sherpa community sing and dance the whole night long.
• Concluding Fire Puja.