Nepal is a country of festivals. In fact, the Nepalese are said to observe more festivals than there are days in the year. Hardly a day passes without some festivities, ceremonial observances or pilgrimages occurring in some part of the country or the other. The following is a brief description of the major festivals observed in the country.
Navabarsha is the Nepalese New Year’s Day, which is a national holiday celebrated with great respect and enthusiasm. Nepal follows its own calendar and it is 57 years older than the international calendar. Nepalese New Year is in Mid April. For festivals, daily life and occasions Nepalese people use own calendar. Only for international events and occasions foreigner calendar is used for. Following this event, sacrifices are made to the Balkumari in the neighboring village of Bodé (Bhaktapur) where there are only seven deities borne on palanquins. In Bodé takes place an event which might seem bizarre to outsiders. A volunteer in a spiritual trance gets his tongue pierced with an iron spike. Good fortune to the village and to the volunteer will follow should he succeed in spending the whole day thus spiked.
Tihar & Lakshmi Puja
Tihar is known as the festival of lights and is celebrated for five days. This festival is in mid October/early November. On the occasion of Laxmi Puja houses are illuminated at night. A variety of special sweets are prepared and offered to guests. At this time certain animals like crow, dog, cow and ox are also favored with food and garlands from day 1 to 4. On the fifth day, sisters offer tika and special food to her brothers and similarly brother offers gift, clothing and special food for her in return.
Mani Rimdu is one of the biggest festival of Sherpas people of the Khumbu region. It takes place during the full moon of ninth month of the Tibetan calendar (around in November). To mark the festival, Sherpas from the Khumbu region gather at Tyangboche Monastery and Sherpa from lower Khumbu gather in Chiwang Khop Monastery above the Phaplu airport. The picturesque monastery of Tyangboche 3,870m is situated at the foreground of Mt. Everest and Amadablam. The three-day celebrations of Mani Rimdu follow the ten days of non-stop prayer sessions addressed to the patron deities seeking blessing from the god of all mankind. The deity propitiated is Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet. An orchestra of cymbals, horns, flutes, and conch shells announces the start of the second day’s celebrations. This is followed by the masked dances in which monks in colorful robes and huge glowering masks perform ritual dances symbolizing the destruction of evil forces. In one of the dances, a group of monks clad in bright silk attire and black headgear perform ablution to the gods and pray for divine protection from the forces of evil. The performances, enlivened by humorous interludes, continue until dark. Tormas (figures made of dough) are consigned to a sacred.
Losar is the Tibetan New Year. This festival is most impressively observed in the month of February by all the Tibetan-speaking populations. They organize folk songs and dances on his occasion. These dances can be seen in Khumbu, Helambu and other northern regions of Nepal and also at Boudhanath in Kathmandu.
Maha Shivaratri, or the Great Night of Lord Shiva, is observed in honor of Lord Shiva’s day of birth. A great fair takes place at the Pashupatinath Temple as thousands of pilgrims from all parts of Nepal and India congregate in celebration.
Dasain one of the biggest festival of Hindus in Nepal. The festival is celebrated remembering the glorious victory of Good over Evil, of Goddess Durga’s slaying of the terrible demon Mahisasura, who roamed the earth, terrorizing the populace in the guise of a ferocious water buffalo. Dasain takes its name from Vijaya Dashami, the Great Tenth Day of Victory. This is the day when Lord Rama slew the demon Ravana and when Durga vanquished the demon Mahisasura. On this day ‘tika’ is received from elders. The Tika symbolizing victory is a blessing of good fortune.
This is a festival of colours and celebrate in harmony with nature and gods. The festival is popular mostly in Kathmandu and in Terai belt of Nepal. It is hugely celebrated in neighboring country India. Colourful occasion when people smear each other with coloured powder and splash water balloons onto one another. The Chir pole is erected at the Kathmandu Durbar Square gaily decorated with colourful flags. That is the formal announcement to everybody to hide all their good clothes and to join in the revelry.