Festivals of Nepal
Nepal is popular for vibrant and colorful festivals. Nepalese people celebrate many festivals based on their own community traditions and calendars. There are more 125 different castes and more than hundred spoken languages in Nepal. Each community has its own culture, traditions and rituals. And they celebrate different festivals. Following are many festivals celebrate in Nepal.
Nepali New Year (April)
Nepal New Year is celebrated as per the Nepali Calendar. It lies in mid-April.
Maha Shivaratri, which literally translates to ‘Great Night of Shiva’, is a Hindu festival celebrated all over Nepal. The festival is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Feb/Mar according to the Hindu calendar. The day is celebrated to venerate Lord Shiva, an important deity in Hindu religion. Lord Shiva is the most worshipped God in the Hindu religion. More than 100,000 of Hindu devotees from India and Southeast Asia throng weeks ahead of the festival and gather in and around Pashupatinath temple – one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus in Kathmandu to pay their homage to Lord Shiva on his birthday. “Pashupatinath” literally means “the Lord of animals” as Lord Shiva is considered as the guardian and protector of everything that exists in the universe. On this holy day, worshippers dip and bath in the holy river Bagmati at early dawn and fast for the whole day and stay around fire to keep them warm as it is still winter in Nepal.
Holi (The festival of colors)
Holi festival is known as festival of colors. This festival of water and colors falls between February/March, and is also known as “Fagu” in Nepal. This day is observed to rejoice the extermination of female demon Holika who together with her King Brother conspired to kill his son Pralhad, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This day, playful people especially the young, wander through the streets in groups on foot or vehicles with various colors smeared all over themselves and the people in houses make merry throwing colors and water balloons at each other and also to these people on the streets.
Ghode Jatra (Festival of Horses)
This horse racing festival takes place between March/April and a grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel. Although this festival does not have much religious aspects, a large number of people, even from outside Kathmandu, flock around Kathmandu to witness the horse race and other exciting sports activities performed by the Nepal Army.
Buddha’s birth anniversary is celebrated every year during the full moon day of May in Nepal. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and Patan to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s birth place in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went in search of enlightenment.
Teej (The festival for Hindu Women)
This festival is celebrated by Hindu women. Hindu married women fast and worship to the god Shiva donning beautiful red saris with shining potes (glass beads). Singing and dancing is the sight almost everywhere in Nepal during the festival of Teej. On this day women observe a fast and pray to Lord Shiva for the long, healthy and prosperous life of their husbands and their families. The unmarried women also observe this festival with unabated zeal with the hope that they will get to marry good husbands. From early dawn, women queue up in multiple lines in Pashupatinath to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.
Dashai (Vijaya Dashami)
Dashain is the biggest festival in Nepal which is also known as Bijaya Dashami. Many buffaloes and goats are sacrificed in this festival. On the initial festival day, the Brahmans sow barley at the place where they worship and ritualistically sprinkle it with sacred water on a daily basis. The Nepalese cherish their Dashain as the time for eating and dressing well. The fifteen days of celebration occurs during the bright lunar fortnight ending on the day of the full moon. Throughout Nepal, the goddess Durga in all her manifestations are worshiped with innumerable pujas, abundant offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritualistic holy bathing, thus drenching the goddess for days in blood. Buffaloes, goats, chickens and ducks are killed by the thousands at the temples at military posts and in every household. One of the main centers that witnesses the animal sacrifice in a large scale at this time is the Hanuman Dhoka palace on the ninth day. On the concluding day of the festival called the Tika, the elders of the family give Tika to their junior members and to other relatives who may also come to seek their blessings. The fresh shoots of the barley’s are also given. Family feasting and feting of guests is a common practice at this time.
Tihar (Festival of lights)
This festival is also known as festival of lights which is the second biggest festival in Nepal. This festival lasts for five days and people worship Lakshmi – the Goddess of Wealth. All houses are cleaned and decorated with light, candles, oil lamps with the belief that Goddess Lakshmi will enter the house and bless the house with wealth and riches. During the five day festivel crows, dogs and cows are worshipped and honored with vermilion, garland and delicious food for what they have done in the lives of humans. The festival ends with Bhai Tika – brothers’ day when sisters worship brothers for their long and healthy life, who safeguard their own lives. This is also a time for gambling in Nepal as gambling is not illegal during this festival.
Lhosar (The New Year of Sherpa, Tamang, Gurung and Magar communities)
Lhosar is also New Year celebrated by few ethnic groups of Nepal like Tamang, Gurung, Sherpa etc. This is the New Year of the Tibetans and Sherpas and other ethnic group of Nepal which falls in the month of January or February. The Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath are decorated with eye catching colorful prayer flags pulling the crowd towards them. The people perform traditional dances and welcome their New Year with feasts and family gatherings wearing new clothes and finest jewelry and exchange gifts. Celebratory dances can also be seen in Khumbu, Helambu and other northern regions on Nepal.
Maghe Sankranti is observed in the month of January on the first day of the month of Magh, bringing an end to the ill-omened month of Poush when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. On this day, the sun leaves its southernmost position and takes off for its northward journey, so Maghe Sankranti is similar to solstice festivals in many other traditions. People participate in holy bathing in this festival and auspicious foods like laddoo, ghee, sweet potatoes, etc. are distributed. The mother of the house wishes good health to all family members.
The Tiji (also pronounced “Teeji”) festival is an annual festival indigenous to Lo-Manthang (Upper Mustang). The Teeji festival usually takes place during the last week of May and lasts for 3 days. Dances are performed by the monks of Lo Manthang’s “choedhe” monastery during the celebration; the harassment of Ma Tam Ru Ta (in a dance called “Tsa Chham” on the first day), the birth of Dorjee Sonnu, the demon’s son (on the second day called “Nga Chham”), the attempt to return the demon to lord Buddha’s realm (on the third and final day). The Teeji festival dances are all organized by the Choedhe Monastery, which is of the Shakya sect of Lo Manthang. +View Detail
This is a very special festival in the Khumbu area celebrated in the month of May or June every year. There is much dancing, drinking and merry making in addition to the more serious rituals and dances performed by the monks. This festival is celebrated to honor the anniversary of Guru Rinpoche’s birth on the lotus flower. Lama Sangwa Dorgje is the founder of the earliest monasteries of Khumbu and he was the first to start the Dumji festival in Pangboche about 360 years ago in order to coincide with the birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche.
The festival serves as a religious and community duty to help bring the villagers together. Every twenty years, it falls upon one family to provide food and drink for the entire village for the duration of the celebrations, which last for 4 days. Dumji Festival is performed by the Tengboche Monks in Tengboche, Namche Bazaar, Khumjung and Pangboche of Khumbu and Junbesi of Solu. The Festival in Namche is the most interesting and popular one among them all. +View Detail
Mani Rimdu Festival
Mani Rimdu is a Sherpa festival celebrated during the autumn at the Tengboche Monastery in the Everest region. Lamas and Sherpa gather at the monastery for five days – ‘for the good of the world’. There are plays, masked dances, prayers and feasts. Demons are quelled and the pious are rewarded. The festival is very colorful and ideal to combine with a trekking expedition in the Everest region. +View Detail
Shey Festival (a 12-years festival)
Shey Festival is the festival celebrated in Dolpo area i.e. at Shey Gompa. This festival is one of the most important festival in Buddhism. This festival occurs every 12 years. This festival occurs in the year of the dragon according to Buddhist calendar. This festival was initiated by Lama Duptop Singey Hisye in the dragon year in 790. During the dragon year, all the Dolpo-pa residents gather and circumambulate the Shey Ribo Drukda. In Buddhism ‘shey’ means ‘crystal’ and ‘Ribo Druk Dra’ means the mountain of Thunder Dragon. +View Detail
Sagadawa festival is one of the most influential religious festival in Tibet. Buddhists believe that Sakyamuni was born in April, became Buddha in April and died in April. So Sagadawa festival mainly focuses on worshiping the Buddha in the inner, middle and outer parts of Lhasa. +View Detail
Trekking Experts offers different trips which allow you to participate in these festivals where you can witness closely these festivals. To view festivals trips, please click here.