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Festivals of Nepal

With festivals springing up and celebrations happening for almost any reason at any time-day or night, rain or shine (there are probably people celebrating each rain and each sunny day) it is a mystery how the people of Nepal ever have time to work. Someone once made a statement that there are 365 days in a year but near 500 celebrations. We have not checked but we will take their word for it. No matter what time of the year you travel to Nepal, you are almost certain to be here around one festival or another. In fact, there are so many different celebrations, one cannot record every single one so do not fret or worry about when is a good time to travel to Nepal. It is a lot easier to decide when you are coming and then find out what celebrations will be happening in that time frame.

Nepal can be considered, for the most part, Hindu with varying degrees of Buddhist influence and other parts of Nepal still following the Tibetan Bon (predominantly among the Dolpo ethnic group). Hinduism is by no means short on various gods and goddesses each in one way or another important to the Hindu way of life. Of course one can never forget about Buddha. Being so important these religious icons, they are worshiped and celebrated, many by way of festival.

The many festivals of Nepal are main attractions for those who travel here especially when the people, religion, culture, and heritage come together in mass union and are on display for all to see. At these times, even if you do not know what the celebration is for, the whole country and its people seem to adopt a similar vibe, a sense of connection with each other and it is truly a great experience for anybody visiting Nepal to witness. Do not feel shy, join in the celebration!

As you will probably wonder why there are no specific dates listed for the following festivals, we should mentioned here that Nepal does not run on a western (or solar) calendar but on the Bikram Era or Bikram Sambat; for the most part the lunar calendar. We will spare you the details on how this works (try Google if you must) but to make a long story short the current year in Nepal is 2065. Get the picture? Anyway lets get to the celebrations!


Nawabarsha – “Nepali New Year

The national holiday which is also a guaranteed day off from work, Nawabarsha also known as “Nepali New Years.” It falls in mid April because of the different calendar used in Nepal. In fact, the western January 1 New Year day is not a holiday day from work for the Nepali people. Although each main town celebrates in their own BIG way, the Kathmandu Valley takes the prize for the most elaborate celebrations. Two of the more famous townships in the valley that hold a grand production are Bhaktapur and Thimi. The people living in Thimi spend the start of the new year happily dancing, singing, and throwing Gulal, a red powder, covering themselves, the streets, and anything that stands in their way. Bhaktapur has a dramatized “battle” more like a tug-of-war between the different sections of the town. A thick giant rope is laid out, and the battle begins. The people from the side of town who win this “war” are considered the lucky ones and are also considered to be very blessed for the year to come – so one can only assume it would be terrible to lose. The rest of the population might find other forms of entertainment; many restaurants usually offer some sort of New Year special entertainment. You might find some locals opting to stay up until midnight drinking and celebrating with family and friends. Since New Years Day is a holiday from work, some even stay up all night in order to watch the first sunrise of the new year.

Losar – “Tibetan New Year”

Sherpas and Tibetans alike celebrate Losar – the Tibetan New Year – with lots of victorious dancing, large feasts and spending quality joyous time visiting with their family members to celebrate the past year and contemplate possibilities for the year to come. Families dress to the 9’s wearing their finest clothing and jewelry and exchange gifts with one another. Fresh or newly cleaned prayer flags will string across roof tops and through the streets waving their vibrant cheerful colors in the wind. Excitement fills the air and many of the celebrators will gather at Boudhanath and Swayambhunath temples where monks will offer blessings for good fortune and health for the new year to come. And of course you can find further festivals in Khumbu, Helambu and other villages near the northern Nepal-Tibetan borders. Where ever you are on this day, you should definately try to travel to one of these overwhelming yet fun celebrations.

Holi – “Festival of Colors

Holi is one of the most vibrant, friendly and fun festivals of the year. With winter finally having ended and spring starting to arrive everyone waits with excitement for nature to show all of its potential colors. When the season is at its most colorful, the people of the Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding Himalayan regions kick off the start the celebration of Holi. Men, women, and children, old and young, rich and poor get together and celebrate the coming of the beautiful season approaching, by covering themselves and one another with colored water and a colored powdered (known as gulal). You would not want to be wearing your best sari (or any other formal wear) with all of the colorful powder flying through the air and water balloon filled with dyed water being tossed by everyone or you just might be sorry. Bonfires are lit near almost all main squares of Kathmandu on this day (especially Kathmandu’s Durbar Square) which sets an ideal stage for singing and dancing. When all the celebrations in and around the Kathmandu Valley come to an end, they are followed the next day by the Terai region of the country along with India celebrate their Holi day.

Biska Jata

Biska Jata (Bisket) is a quite interesting and regarded as an important festival. Usually taking place in Bhaktapur and its neighboring towns, they will reenact a drama that has been passed on for centuries. Demonic deity images will be placed on top of some tottering chariots (more like a pagoda on wheels) that will then be pulled through the bumpy brick laid streets. Who will be doing this work of burden, you might ask? Well the strong merry men with the courage from a little rice beer – that does the trick! Where ever these men stop, the chariots stay and devotees rush the scene to place oil lamps that will light the street. Other deity images might even have the privilege to be put on a palanquin and carried through the streets to see these magnificent glowing sites. There are also animal sacrifices, flowers and coins offered at the celebration.

Ghode Jatra

This well known and celebrated festival dates back several hundred years and was thought to have some links with traditional Nepali religious practices. Ghode Jatra is now known as a grand production and horse racing event held in the middle of Kathmandu city. The crowd drawing festivities are held in the Tundikhel Parade grounds, and besides just horse racing as the main event, it also has different sport activities to watch such as bike racing, para dropping and aerobatics. This is a fun time to be in the Kathmandu Valley because many people travel from around the valley and beyond to see these once a year, exciting sporting events. Legends say these sporting event traditions started when the Kathmandu people buried a demon under the soil of Tudikhel show grounds. They say that he may rise again and cause worry to the world if horses do not trample on him each year. So, every spring, this victory over evil is openly celebrated in the valley.

Ram Nawami – “Lord Ram’s Birthday”

Celebrate Lord Ram’s Birthday in his hometown of Janakpur city at his Janaki temple in the terai region. There is of course music singing and dancing by all and a grand display of elephants parading, carts being pulled by bulls, and there can be upto as many as 100,000 pilgrims that travel to this one location. You can also find celebrators in Kathmandu paying homage to Lord Ram and honoring what an ideal life he lead. In the town of Bhaktapur, you will find devotees visiting a temple by the Hanumante River. Here there are some idols of Ram and his faithful servant Hanumante for his fans to visit this day. (Aslo see Bibaha Pachami festival under November/December)

Red Machchhendranath Jatra

Since the start of the monsoon season is so unpredictable and may not start until the end of April (or as late as mid June) the celebrations for Red Machchhendranath Jatra can last for weeks. Rato Machchhendranath (also known as Bungadyo) is the National God of the Country and he plays a very important role of the yearly rain in Nepal. In Patan there is a chariot holding a large tower of Lord Machchhendranath being pulled by ropes by his followers. The parade-like scene is lead by some Nepali soldiers and musicians adding their expertise to the ambiance. Weeks after the pulling of the chariot begins, it will end in near the Lord’s hometown of Jawalkhel, where thousands of oil lamp vigils last day and night, for as long as it takes, until the first true drops of rain fall onto a black shirt held up for the crowds to see for about ten minutes by a high priest. The “black shirt” known to the Nepalis as bhoto is really just a regular cloth shirt but is covered with magnificent gems and precious stones and belongs to Lord Machchhendranath himself and its wetness will signal the rain for the already planted and thirsty crops as well as allow for the eventual planting of rice an important staple imposible without rain.

Mata Tritha Puja – “Mother’s Day”

It is no great secret that the Nepali people have very close bonds with their family. On a day between April and May (the last day of the dark fortnight) the festival of Mata Tritha Puja is celebrated – also known as “Mother’s Day.” (For Father’s Day look under the July/Aug festivals) This is the day that is dedicated to all mother’s since they are such an important part of life (they even gave you life!). Families gather together to thank and show their appreciation for all of the love they have received, dedication and support that their mothers have shown them in their lives. The mother is, of course the glue of the family, keeping peace with the challenging ups and downs in daily routines. Children will do their best to buy or make gifts. Married daughters will reunite with their mothers by traveling to their hometown and bringing them special gifts or homemade treats. The day will be full of joyous celebrations and good times shared by the families.

For those who are unfortunately without a mother, they will visit the holy pilgrimage site of Mata Tirtha. There is a myth behind this pilgrimage and holy bathing site: There was a young farmer who was deeply depressed because his mother had died. He went to the forest to pray to her and offer her gifts by two ponds. Upon looking in the smaller pond, he saw his mother’s face looking back at him and she accepted his prayer offerings. Now many people are found traveling from all over to this location on the mother’s day to look into the pond to find their mother’s face and to possibly help bring peace to their deceased mother’s soul. The larger of the two ponds is used for bathing and is considered to have holy healing water.


Buddha Jayanti – “Lord Buddha’s Birthday”

Buddhists most celebrated day of the year is Buddha Jayanti, which translates to Lord Buddha’s Birthday. It falls on the full moon day of the Nepali month of Baisakh (or May) near the 6th. This day is not only the day that Buddha was born, but he also became enlightened and achieved Nirvana it is said he breathed his last breath on this day also. In preparation for this highly celebrated day, the monastaries and other places of worship are thoroughly cleaned – statues polished and clean prayer flags hung- for the many gatherers. The best place to go and celebrate with the masses are at the Swayambhunath Stupa or Boudhanath Temple where thousands of other Buddhists go to celebrate, or you can go to almost any other town and hear melodious chanting throughout the day.


Celebrated around May or June, the out of the ordinary festival of Dumji, is celebrated in the Sagarmatha region of Nepal. The festival was started by Lama Sangwa Dorgje who is the also the founder of the earliest monasteries of the Khumbu area. He started the tradition of this festival over 360 years ago in memory of Guru Rinpoche’s birth on the holy lotus flower. Like the majority of Nepal’s festivals there is dancing, drinking and in addition more serious rituals and dances performed by the monks.

The factor that makes this festival really stand out from the next is that the financial burden of the four days of feasting and drinking for the entire village will be put on one family! Now the purpose of the festival is to promote unity among the villagers, but I cannot imagine having to bear this burden. The way to select the “doomed” ones is by means of a specific rotation decided by four specific laws made for the festival.

Each family living in the area will have its time to bear the burden – some families even go bankrupt supplying such a huge number of people with these necessities.
You can find these festivals performed on a yearly basis at Tengboche, Namche Bazaar, Khumjung, Khumbu, and Solu. The most popular destination to see the festival is at Namche Bazaar. The dates of the festivities may vary by a few days from one town to the next as their dates may change depending on other local events.


By this time of the year, the monsoon season is underway, and it starts the month long celebrations of Gunla. Started more than 25 centuries back by Buddha himself, this is the time for meditation, prayer, fasting and religious music to cleanse the soul. Prayer flags, painted scrolls, important Buddhist statues and oil lamps decorate monastaries. At this time you can find many people gathering at Swayambhunath temple to have early morning prayers while the chimes of bells and the intoxicating smell of incense fills the air.

Teechi – “Prayer for World Peace”

This annual festival called Teechi (sounds like teeji) is specifically celebrated in the Lo-Manthang (or Upper Mustang) area. Teechi is an abbreviation for the words Tempa Chirim which translates to “Prayer for World Peace” (who would not want to support this festival?) Its merriment is full of monks dancing from the Choedhe Monastery from Lo-Manthang who are also the organizers of this celebration. The festival takes place around the last week of May and lasts for three days. The reason for the festival is to remember the victory of Buddha over a savage demon named Man Tam Ru who was known for eating humans and causing difficult times for their survival by starting storms and droughts. The first day of the festival, there is a dance called Tsa Chham which is a dramatization of harassing the demon. The second day of the festival is called Nga Chham, which is the birth of the demon’s son, Dorjee Sonnu. The third day is dedicated to returning the demon to Buddha’s realm.


Gai Jatra – “Cow’s Precession”

This not-so-sorrowful festival is when Hindu families that have lost a loved one in the last year will celebrate as a large community in a joyous way instead of wallowing in a depression. During Gai Jatra, these families will walk a cow down the street. Why a cow you might ask? Gai meaning cow, is the most sacred animal in Nepal and to Hindus. By walking one down the street with other supportive family and friends is a respectful way to help the cow to get your deceased loved one towards “heaven” or wherever their soul needs to be. If a cow is unavailable, your child might be dressed as a cow instead – even if a cow is available, children and other family members join in the fun and sometimes silly (yet still respectful towards the deceased) festivities. There are funny dramatic scenes acted out by people dressed as government officials. These antics include poking fun at those in higher power and anyone is fair game for these jokes and are happening in most towns across Nepal. You might even find young boys participating in the fun by wearing a sari (a traditional women’s dress). But only in Kathmandu will you find male Transvestites in the daytime parading around with the festivities. There is even a transvestite beauty contest that is sure to be an entertaining and interesting sight.(End of August)

Janai Purnima

Both Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims participate in the festival known as Janai Purnima, and the celebration will not begin until a full moon day. Members of Brahman ethnic group will start the festivities by chanting the ever powerful Gayatri mantra. This will be followed with the changing of their janai or sacred thread which is their robes that they wear for the year. You will see these men wearing the robes in public as a sign of their status. A yellow or red bracelet will be secured around each wrist of the participants, it does not matter their religion but these bracelets provide them protection. Of course there is singing and dancing involved – this is a Nepali festival – and all of the pilgrims will travel by foot to the Langtang Mountain to the north of Kathmandu where they will imitate Lord Shiva by bathing in the sacred lake of Gosaikunda.


Ghantakarna was a mythical demon, sounding like a loud bell,that used to haunt and terrorize Kathmandu. He was eventually rid of from the city. The myth goes something like: A God disguised as a frog lured Ghantakarna into a deep well. When he was at the bottom, the villagers living in the surrounding area threw stones at him until he died. Now every year, children from Kathmandu eagerly work to keep his soul away. They collect money donations to keep this demon banished by roping off the road so any vehicle trying to drive on these roads must stop and donate to the cause – the donations can be 1 or 2 rupees. When enough money is collected, the children will use their winnings to buy firewood and the demon effigies are then burned victoriously to have the earth cleansed of the evil. The children elated that they have succeeded in keeping this demon’s soul in exile for at least another year.


Krishna is the most famous God among the Hindu religion so of course there is a special festival dedicated to him called Krishnashtami. He was a hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata and his birthday is celebrated mostly by Hindus walking through the streets showing their photos of him, carrying freshly polished statues of him, and playing Lord Krishna’s musical instrument, the flute. He is the most well-known and popular God because he was said to have answered every question known to man. You can find the majority of followers as well as the peak of the celebration at midnight of his birthday by the Krishna Temple in Patan.

Nag Panchami

Because Snakes are believed to have special magical powers especially during the monsoon season over rainfall, there is a month dedicated to them. During the Nag Panchami festival (nagas means snake), you will find photos of these nagas hanging over doorways of houses and other buildings. When walking around rural towns or even the larger cities like Pokhara, you might even find some newly constructed snake figures in local places of worship. The hanging of the photos and the dedications to the snakes are said to help keep harm away from you and your family. So even if you are doubtful, you just might want to hang a photo in case the myth is true.

Gokarna Aunsi – “Father’s Day”

There is a day to appreciate mother’s (see under March/April festivals) so of course there needs to be a day to thank the father’s in Nepal for being the pillar of strength and support of the family. This day is called Gokarna Aunsi and it is celebrated between August and September. This day children of all ages (and distances) travel to see their fathers and celebrate their love for him. They will bring him gifts and special treats and the streets are filled with a happy and united ambiance. After offering gifts to their fathers, sons will touch their fathers’ feet with their foreheads as a sign of admiration and respect where the daughters will only touch the hands of their father.

Everyone, whether they have a father or not, will pay homage to the Gokarneswor Mahadev in Gokarna Village, which is a sacred shrine of Lord Shiva. Here those without a father will pray for the welfare of his soul and honor the memory of their father. This is an ideal time to repair any broken bonds of friendship caused by a quarrel.

The myth behind the shrine goes like this:

Lord Shiva disguised himself from all of the other Gods as a one-horned golden deer and hid in the Pashupatinath forest. The world was suffering while he was enjoying his disguise, so Vishnu (the preserver), Brahma (the creator), and Indra (king of heaven) sent out a search to find their missing fellow God. A Goddess saw through his disguise and informed the three Lords about his whereabouts. Vishnu, Brahma, and Indra came together and grabbed the deer disguise by the horn at the same time the horn split into three pieces and Lord Shiva was revealed. Shiva requested that the pieces of his broken horn be placed in their worlds. The Gods agreed. Vishnu placed his piece in his abode in Vaikuntha, Indra in heaven, and Brahma made a sacred shrine for it at Gokarneshwor. The following day the gods and goddesses went and bathed in the holy Bagmati River and paid homage to Shiva. This was what is the beginning of ancestor worship at Gokarna.


Teej – “Women’s Festival”

Nepal’s Women’s Festival is a Hindu celebration known to the locals as Teej, this is where a large mass of women get together and remember the Goddess Parbati, Lord Shiva’s wife and of her great devotion to him. The gathered women sing and pray and receive gifts from their sons. If they have a husband they pray for his long-life. If they do not yet have a husband then this is the right festival to pray for one. A grand meal is prepared for the women and celebrations late into the night will end with the beginning of a fasting period for these devotees. The last day of Teej, the fasting day, is called Rishi Panchami. It is said that fasting will help their prayers for the men and will cleanse them from any sins committed (voluntary or involuntary). To help cleanse these sins, they should wash their hands 108 times and also wash their mouths 108 times. If the women will eat during the fasting period, they should only have fruit one time per day. Some women are so dedicated with the fasting that they will refuse water or even the more extreme will not even swallow their saliva during the fasting period. The best place to see these praying women during your travels, usually in their vibrant red wedding saris, is at the Pashupatinath temple sending their prayers to Lord Shiva. Only Hindus are allowed in the actual temple.


Generally celebrated in September and March, Thote is a Gurung festival (see ethnic groups page for more info. on Gurung) where the participants wear colorful traditional dresses and men carry the Nepali weapon – the kukhuri. These communities are found marching through major parts of Pokhara city up to Naya Bazaar.

Indra Jatra

Indra Jatra is the celebration dedicated to Indra, the King of Heaven, and is celebrated after the monsoon season. Everyone gets together to thank the great one and celebrate the good harvest that has been blessed with a result of this King’s help with the rainy seasons. On the first day of the eight day celebration in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, Indra’s dhwaj – or flag- is raised for all to see. There is a myth behind this celebration which goes like this: One day Indra’s mother could not find a particular scented flower in the gardens of heaven so Indra decided to find them for her. In Kathmandu he found some parijat flowers and tried to steal them for his mother, but upon taking them he was captured and thrown in jail by the villagers of the valley. When Indra’s mother came looking for him, the villagers were so embarrassed by their mistake that they released him and they now celebrate one of the more colorful festivals of the year to help subdue his anger.

Celebrated the same day as Indra Jatra, and considered to be the main attraction of the day:

Kumari – “Living Goddess”

Kumari or the Virgin Living Goddess festival is celebrated by both Buddhists and Hindus. There is no other country that is known to have a living goddess, except for Nepal. This living virgin goddess is a young girl around the age of 7 or 8, and she will be the living goddess until her first menstrual. The Kumari festival usually begins in front of the royal palace, where a large pole is raised for Indra, the God of Rain. Then begins the celebration. Dancers, singers, and costumes rule the streets. The third day is when the Kumari is brought out of her palace and begins the three-day tour of the city with performers of all kinds. The celebration lasts 7 days and ends with the Kumari returning to her palace. An amazing time to be in Kathmandu if you should have the time to be here.


Dashain also called “Durga Puja.” In Nepal, it is the most important Hindu celebration of the year and the most favorite – you stay home from work, the kids do not have school and of course the parties! The festivities will start by the signal of the new moon in October and is devoted to the mother Goddess Shakti. Practically every city, rural town and home pulsate with excitement and joy. Darshan is a ten day festival full of dancing, drinking and gift-giving, parades and celebration music from all. This is the perfect time to reconcile with your friends or family members if having a quarrel and have a fresh start.

Every day of the ten day holiday will have a puja ceremony. The first day of the festival every household will plant ghatasthapana. Ghata means seeds and sthapana means grow. So as the days pass the plant will grow these rice seeds.

Every family, no matter their financial status, will buy a sacrificial goat, buffalo, or possibly some chickens or other small animal. They will sacrifice these animals to the Goddess as an offering of blood. It is believed if you sacrifice the animal and put its blood on any public or private vehicle (car, motorcycle, plane, bicycle, etc.) then it will be blessed and the vehicle will not ask for blood later. So in a nutshell the sacrifice will prevent the vehicle from being in a human-fatal accident. After the sacrificing of the animals, everything will be eaten with family and friends at a big party to celebrate the victories of the Goddess over the “demon king.” A special puja will be performed on the last day and everyone receives the red “Tika” on your forehead which is made up of rice, vermilion, and curd. The rice used in the final puja is that of the ghatashthapana that you planted on the first day of the festival.

Mani Rumdu

During the fall season the Sherpa festival called Mani Rumdu which takes place in the Sagarmatha region at the Tengboche Monastary. There are lamas and Sherpas that travel to this meeting place for the good of the world. Dramatic shows are put on with masked dances throughout the perimeter. Everyone indulges in a grand feast and prayers are heard echoing through the crowds. There are dramatic mock scenes acted out between virtuous worshipers and demons. Anyone that can arrange a trip to the Everest region during this 5 day festival is sure to have a great reward.


Tihar – “Festival of lights”

During this 5 day celebration, shorty following the finish of Dashain, the Hindu community worship the Goddess Laxmi-the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Here, they start cleaning their houses to get ready for the homecoming of the Goddess. Then every day of the Tihar festival they have new rituals preparing for her presence. The first day is the crows day, they will do a puja ceremony for every crow they can catch, give them tika (red dot on forehead) and offer their first portion of their meals to these animals. The second day is dedicated to the dogs of Nepal. This day they give tika and flowered garland necklaces to the dogs and feed them a grand meal. The third day is dedicated to the cows. They will make flower garlands for them, give them food, and they will remove their red or yellow bracelets that they received durin Janai Purnima (For more info about Janai Purnima look under July/Aug on this festivals page.) and wrap it around the animals tail. The third day will also have thousands of people lining the streets with oil-lit or candle lamps creating a magnificent glow against the dark night sky creating a sort of welcome landing strip for the Goddess to bring wealth and prosperity into their homes. The fourth day marks the final day of this festival when every sister prays for her brothers long life and prosperity. By wearing garlands of makhamali flowers and doing a ritual spreading mustard oil around their brothers will protect them from Yama the Lord of the Netherworld and by doing these rituals will keep them safe.

Nhew Daya Bhintuna – “Newari New Year”

The last day of Tihar (see above paragraph) is also an important day for the Newar ethnic group. This day is known as Nhew Daya Bhintuna or the Newari New Year. The day is given as a holiday from work and they will perform the Mha Puja – or the puja for self. This day is all about worshiping yourself and wishing for a long and happy life. In the evening, they will walk down the streets with garland necklaces and join in the rest of the Tihar celebrations with great joy for their new year.

Bala Chaturdashi

The origin of the Bala Chaturdashi festival is unknown, but that has not stop the Nepalis from sending prayers to their Lord Pashupatinath for centuries. Thousands of men and women travel to the forests of the Pashupatinath temple for an all night oil-lamp lit vigil. From the night they sing, dance, and pray. Then in the early hours of the morning they pray to the different shrines around the temple and start on a walk to offer seven different types of seeds from grains to the earth for Lord Shiva and to cleanse the sins of their deceased loved ones. But actually, the real beneficiaries of the grains might not be Lord Shiva but the multitude of monkeys inhabiting the Pashupatinath temple. There are hundreds of monkeys that live around the temple and within the sacred perimeter. This day is especially exciting for them because no other day in the year are so many people there just giving them such an easy access meal.

Yomari Punhi

There is the Red Mahhendranath Jatra festival (look under March/April festivals) in order to have good rain during the monsoon season to have a plentiful harvest, so of course there a festival – Yomari Punhi – to give thanks for a successful harvest. When the storage rooms of the farmers’ home or work place has been filled full from the aid of the Gods it is now time to have this festival. A special cake is made for the Gods as an offering for their kindness with their bountiful support of rain. The cake is called yomari and is a shell of dough filled with melted sugar and then sealed. The devotees will temporarily display the treat to their deities and then will later eat the (now) blessed food.

Bibaha Pachami

The Bibaha Pachami celebration is one for the lovers! It is a Hindu belief that Lord Ram was to be “perfection personified” and his wife Sita, was said to match him in all of his ways, so they are thought of as the best couple ever recorded. The Bibaha Pachami, which is celebrated every year near Sita’s hometown of Janakpur in the terai region, is a chance for everyone to watch and be a part of the reenactment of their wedding. Why would you not want to witness the joining of these two perfect beings and be a part of their love story? There is a myth about these love birds: Sita’s father wanted to test the strength of any possible suitors for his beloved daughter. His test was to simply string the bow of the great Lord Shiva. Many men wanted to win the hand of the princess, but could not even lift the bow. When one day Ram tried his luck. He lifted the bow with ease and when he tried to tie it, the string broke. The bow is said to still be on display in the Janaki Palace. (To read about Lord Ram’s Birthday celebration look under March/April festivals)


Maghe Sankranti

With the sun entering from the southern hemisphere during the month of Magh (Jan-Feb) the days are longer and the cool temperature will start getting warmer. The first day of the Magh month or Maghe Sankranti, which is also the coldest day of the year, will start the “thank you” efforts for Lord Vishnu (the Preserver).This gathering is the most significant day for holy bathing, worshipers will bathe in a holy river (and in Nepal practically every river is considered holy) and make offerings of flowers, incense, and food to their Lord.
The most popular meeting place for the dedicated cold weather bather’s is on the banks of the Bagmati River near Patan. Even though there has been a decline in recent years for this ritual due to increasing pollution in the river, there are still a large number of devotees found in the early hours of the morning giving themselves blessings with the water and then proceeding to visit shrines at the temples of Red Machhendranath (look under March/April festivals) and Agnimata. At the temples as well as in private homes, there will be readings from the Holy Hindu Book (bible) Bagwad Gita or Songs of the Gods for this occasion as well as puja rituals.

Since it is the coldest day of the year, followers will cover either their bodies or just put on top of their head some mustard oil which is said to help keep them warm before they start to feast. What is on this menu? Rice of course, yams, and boiled tarul – or root of the yam tree- followed by a sweet treat called laddu which is made of sesame, butter, and sugarcane paste and is a hard consistency but after you start to chew, it gets soft (like a tootsie roll).

Of course there is a legend behind the festival: A thriving businessman from Bhadgoan noticed that his supply of sesame seeds seemed to be lasting longer than usual, when he looked into the bag of the seeds, he found an idol of Lord Vishnu poking out from the bottom of the bag. From this day, similar idols are now worshiped every year on this day in hopes that the God will continue to be generous with the supply of food and this devotion is especially true for the Bhadgoan community.

Maha Shivaratri – “Night of Lord Shiva”

The “Great Night” one of the most sacred festivals in the world, for Hindus, is the Maha Shivaratri, or the night of Lord Shiva. Most of Nepal followers from the Indian sub-continent, even if they are not Hindu, will either fast or only take one meal during the festival. From the early morning, chants can be heard as the mass group of Hindus gather at the very special Pashupatinath temple which is one of the most revered Shiva temples. There are usually so many people that they fill up the whole space of the temple area. Puja rituals are performed and the worshipers make offerings to Lord Shiva. Dedicated sadhus who emulate Lord Shiva will rub ash all over their bodies and proceed to meditate, practice yoga, or even give lectures to other devotees. Friends and strangers travel from far and wide to come together and share food and enjoy the company of fellow worshipers. At midnight there is an inevitable line to see the shrine of Shiva in the temple, but his followers will wait hours just to get a glimpse of this image. At night, candles and lanterns light up the temple and controlled bonfires light the hill sides while music, singing, and dancing will continue for two days.

Sweta Machhendranath Snan

Sweta (white) Machhendranath Snan is a week long celebration during the month of January, where he is bathed, oiled, perfumed, and freshly painted. The Goddess Kumari will of course venture out of her palace for this festival to see him at his elaborate temple near Asan Tole. A precession of music, offerings and prayers from his followers will hopefully please him. If all of these events make him happy, he will provide sufficient rainfall during the planting season. The water as a result of this gathering is the necessity of life here in Nepal. With so much of Nepali daily life focused on farming the success or failure of the years seeds will determine the quality of life for the farmers as well as their hungry clients.

Swasthani Puja

For those in need of a little luck or good fortune the Swasthani Puja might be a beneficial festival to attend for any person. The Goddess Swasthani is known to be the ultimate wish granter. Her three eyes burn like the sun and if you make her mad she can bestow terrible misfortune in your life. Parbati is a great example of her powers, she found Lord Shiva for her husband by praying to the powerful goddess. Every evening for a month, as demonstrated by Parbati, a chapter of the Swasthani scriptures should be read for duration of the festival. These readings are said to be so powerful they can assist with the removal of curses, bring together broken relationships and bring endless gifts in your life.

Basanta Panchami

At Kathmandu Durbar Square, a large mass of people travel from all over the valley and beyond to celebrate Basanta Panchami (Basanta meaning spring). The crowds come together and a band plays a traditional song of spring to welcome the new season. A very thoughtful gesture – giving a Namaste to nature.

Sarawati Puja

The same day as the Basanta Pachami, on another side of Kathmandu at the Barahi Shrine, near the Swayambhu temple the Sarawati Puja takes place. Teachers, students, artists, musicians (etc.) gather around to offer gifts of pencils, pens, paper, and flowers to the Goddess Saraswati, who is the Goddess of Learning, arts, and crafts. Her worshipers travel to the shrine to make her happy and offer her gifts. After, they will pray to their books and pencils in hope that they will be become wise and knowledgeable. Also on this day, younger children who have yet to go to school, visit the shrines and will write their first letters on chalkboards that have been laid out for the festival. From here, it is lucky to proceed to their first official day of school.


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