Can you name any country having observed festivals greater than 365 days of a year? Indeed, you heard it right. There are hundreds of festivals in Nepal.
Nepal, being a country rich in culture and tradition, is home to 101 ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has a unique way of celebrating. So, each day is a unique celebration day in Nepal.
Many of you might have imagined Nepal for its breathtaking mountains, stunning hills, serpentine roads, marvelous green meadows, and amazing valleys. That is only the half side of this spectacular beauty. The best part of you visiting Nepal is to witness this country where one of the oldest civilizations ever flourished. Here, festivals have been an indispensable part of one’s living culture and tradition to bring newness in the everyday drudgery of a scheduled lifestyle.
Look into the list of the 10 greatest festivals in Nepal and how people celebrate these.
Table of Contents
Major Festivals in Nepal
Undoubtedly the most venerated festival of notwithstanding ethnic-religious coalition is Dashain. If the exuberance, vitality, and mild weather welcomes the heartwarming sunshine with yellow mustard and golden rice swaying in the fields while the sky is azure filled with colorful kites, then you can probably guess it must be the season of Dashain. People celebrate the triumph story of good over evil. It is an auspicious occasion of family gatherings, receiving Tika (putting rice on the forehead) and Jamara (yellowish sacred grass) from elders and exchanging of gifts. Likewise, the people clean their house and surroundings and decorate them beautifully.
Nepal witnesses the Dashain celebration either in September or October, which is also considered being the best time for trekking in Nepal. It is the honor of divine female energy observed for fifteen days, where the earliest ten days Hindus worship ten different avatars of Goddess Durga.
The major days of celebrations in Dashain include – Ghatasthapana or first day, Saptami or seventh day, Maha Ashtami or eighth day, Nawami or ninth day, Vijaya Dashami or tenth day, and Kojagrat Purnima or fifteenth day. If in case you want to see the sheer joy, rejoice, people wearing neat and colorful dresses, playing swings, and reverence worship insignificant pilgrimages and shrines, then you should visit Nepal during Dashain, you must visit Nepal during Autumn season. As the weather is clear and cool, Dashain time is popular for treks and hikes in Nepal.
Tihar / Deepawali / Yama Panchak / Swanti (Nepal Bhasa: स्वन्ती:)
Tihar is the festival where you celebrate the existence of animals. The ritual is a five-day-long celebration that advocates the essence of self-love and reflection. To sum up, Tihar is the festival of lights, a celebration of animals, and strengthening of bonds between brothers and sisters. In Newari culture, local inhabitants of Kathmandu valley observe Mha Puja as part of New Year celebrations on the fifth day, which means worshipping oneself to empower and purify the soul.
On the first day, crows, second-day dogs, the third-day cow, and Goddess Laxmi, and on the fourth day, people worship ox. Finally, on the fifth day, Bhai Tika, brothers, and sisters put a colorful mark of seven colors on the forehead and offer garland and sweets to each other.
If any of your friends have ever visited Nepal during the Holi festival, then undoubtedly when you utter the word “Holi”, /he shall have this amazing bright smile to reflect what he experienced. Yes. Holi is a festival of colors, a splash of water, painting all the country with colors. It is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal.
Nepalese celebrate Holi on the full day moon from February to March in the solar calendar and lasts for two days, one day in the Hilly region and another day on the Terai. Locals and tourists, both are equally involved in this grand celebration. People are spotted playing in their houses, grounds, and especially in the Durbar Squares (Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan) and lose themselves in sprinkling varieties of powders and waters, dancing and singing.
In the square, Nepalis and visitors indulge in singing, dancing, and sprinkling varieties of powders and waters.
Just as the Haribodhani Ekadashi is to Lord Vishnu, Maha Shivaratri is to Lord Shiva. During Shivaratri, devotees worship Lord Shiva. They travel to Pashupatinath to pay homage to Shiva.
Pashupati Nath is one of the four most significant religious sites in Asia for admirers of Shiva. Hindus consider Shiva the Supreme Lord in protecting and transforming the universe. Lord Shiva also goes by the name Adiyogi Shiva, meaning the patron god of meditation, yoga, and arts. “Maha Shivaratri” or “Great Night of the Shiva” is feted on the 11th month’s new moon day of the Nepali lunar calendar.
Maha Shivaratri symbolizes the convergence of Shakti and Shiva. By remaining vigil all night, people dance and sing, offering prayers to Lord Shiva along with the bonfire. Pashupatinath, also one of the UNESCO world heritage sites, awaits a long queue since early morning to pay homage to Lord Shiva. Sadhus paint their faces and bodies smeared with ash. Some peoples including Sadhus, fast and meditate as blessings of Lord Shiva.
The mesmerizing decoration of Pashupatinath starts a month ago and the Aarati (ritual of offering the light wicks soaked in the ghee and singing yms to hail the God). To witness an atmosphere like a carnival inside the temple premises is an exclusive, tranquil moment of life. If you are in Nepal, you can visit Pashupatinath on a day tour in Kathmandu.
Bisket Jatra is a weeklong annual festival in Dhapasi, Thimi, Bhaktapur, Tokha, and other places in Nepal. It lasts for nine days long, celebrated on 14th April, whose center of attraction is pulling chariots that are being built.
The two chariots in Jatra represent two deities: goddess Bhadrakali and another being enraged god Bhairav. However, the time changes as a per difference in astronomical positions and lunar calendar. People also call Bisket Jatra the “Festival after the death of the serpent”. The locals offer food and prayers, hoping to get rid of troubles and misfortunes in life ahead. In Thimi, people also pierce their tongue for religious significance, also making it a “tongue piercing festival”.
Maghi / Maghe Sankranti
Maghe Sankranti is around mid-January or the first day of Magh. Hindus perform ritual dips in the holy river, families gather and eat meals in groups. On this auspicious day, the menu differs from usual. The Nepalese food menu includes Sweet potato, sesame seed laddus, ghee, yam, and molasses.
The Tharu community in the Terai region also celebrates the first day of Magh as Maghi or their New Year or Maghi. They celebrate it weeklong, attending community gatherings of family and friends, wearing cultural Tharu dress, drinking, eating, and merry. You should never miss Maghi if you are around the Terai region.
Maghi is a herald of relatively longer warmer days as compared to the other cold months. On this very day, it says the sun to move towards the Northern Hemisphere. Therefore, Maghe Sankranti is akin to other religions’ solstice festivals.
Newar Society in Kathmandu and other places celebrate Gai Jatra. It is a festival of memorializing the death of dear ones. Locals also know it as the ‘’Festival of cows’’ where there is singing, mirth, dancing laughter.
As part of Gai Jatra, the members of the deceased of the past year’s family parade on the streets, dressing as cows. It falls from August to September in the Solar Calendar for eight days continuously. During this happy fete, you are likely to experience Nepali traditional stick dancing, singing, unique comedy, etc. They believe it will bring them fortunes in the following days. Thousands of people gather and celebrate with great devotion and importance. In short, attending these festivals is one of the best things to do in Kathmandu.
Teej / Hartalika Teej
What a fantastic image to see women and girls draped in red, yellow, and green sarees, bangles singing prayer rituals, traditional folk songs, and dancing inside Pashupatinath temple premises. Occurring around August, Teej welcomes the monsoon season. One cannot hold themselves to observe startlingly and capture these moments on photographs of this merry day.
A day after the feast called Dar, they fast even without drinking a drop of water. Teej is quite significant for women (from young to old) as they seek blessings from Lord Shiva. Married women pray for the long age of their husbands and the prosperity of the family. Similarly, unmarried women pray to get a handsome, caring husband.
Just after the Teej, women pray offering to seven saints like money, food, and various others to satisfy them and bath using red mud, brush teeth using branches of Datiwan (Achyranthes bidentata) purifying their soul.
Lhosar is a new year of celebration in certain communities in Nepal. In contrast to other festivals, multiple cultural communities (Gurung, Tamang, and Sherpa) at different times celebrate Lhosar. Mainly, Tamu (Gurung), Tamang, and Sherpa communities Lhosar celebrate the festival.
“Lho” means “year” and “Sar” means “new”. The word “Lhosar” means New Year or the beginning of a new era. The people wear their ethnic dress, extend best wishes, gather to sing, dance, have delicious feasts with fanfare and enthusiasm. In case you miss Lhosar, you can explore Tamang culture and daily routine life with a Tamang heritage trail Trek in Nepal.
Nepalese mud festival:
Can you believe a festival of playing with mud?
On Ashad 15 in the Nepalese Calendar, during monsoon as the sky showers crashing rain marking the season for rice plantation, Nepalese observe this amazing mud festival. “Is it good to play with the dirt?”, If you have this query, then I disclose that playing with the mud is healthy. This helps in expressing creativity, boosts up fine motor skills, increases sensory awareness, leading and follows directions. Besides, it shall promote communication, negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and being close to nature.
Nepal is an agricultural country. Despite this, many parts of Nepal lack modern technologies to plant rice. The men plow fields while women plant the rice seedlings while singing and dancing called “Ropai songs” along with eating Dahi- Chiura (curd and beaten rice), local alcohols (as per preference), fruits, pickles, etc. The splashing of muds brings the merriment of field plowing. Also, the singing of local music fills the air with magic, making it a genuine Nepali festival. If you are visiting Nepal during Monsoon in late July, then you can experience this amazing celebration in Nepal.
At the End
These were the top 10 widely celebrated festivals in Nepal. If you want to live in a presence for merrymaking rather than scrolling the festivals of Nepal online, have a visit to Nepal during the time of these amazing festival celebrations. We highly recommend you visit Nepal to experience the dynamic, religious connotation, history, identity of age-long practices of various cultures. These festivals in Nepal take the foundation of mythological and historical background. Although involvement in every festival might not be workable to you during your visit to Nepal, why not entail yourself in these amazing galas worth experiencing?