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More festivals than days in a year

machindranath The rich cultural heritage of Nepal is best expressed in the many large and small festivals that occur through out the year, though the Nepalese have diverse beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. All unite in the celebration of the year’s major festivals. These are many kinds of festivals, some honor certain Hindu and Buddhist gods or goddess, some recreate important events from ancient mythology and epic literature, some herald the seasons or mark important times in the agriculture calendar and others propitiate the minor that populate the spirit world of the country. It has been said that “In Nepal every other building is a temple and every other day is a festival”. Whatever time one visits Nepal there is certain to be a colorful and rewarding festive experience.

Note: These festival are sometimes change their date of month because of their different circumstances.
•  January -February   •  July -August
•  March -April   •  Septemeber -October
•  May -June   •  November -December
 
January - February top
     
•  Sweta Machindranath Snan   •  Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja
•  Swasthani   •  Mahasivaratri
•  Maghe Sankrati    
     
 
Swet Machindranath Snan
swet machindranathSweta (white) Machindranath enjoys a week – long festival in which he is bathed, oiled, perfumed, and painted. The Goddess Kumari visits him at his elaborate temple near Asan Tol. If he is pleased by the music, offerings, and attentions of his devotees, the people of the Valley can look forward to satisfactory rainfall in the planting season.
 
Swasthani top
swasthani pujaGoddess Swasthani’s three eyes burn like the sun. She is the ultimate gift grantor; if insulted, she can make life miserable. By worshipping Swasthani, Parbati attained Lord Shiva as her husband, in the worship rites of Goddess Swasthani, outlined by Parbati, the Swasthani scripture is read every evening for a month. Worshipping Swasthani will bring together parted relations, remove curses, and result in limitless gifts.
Maghe Sankrati top
mage sankratiIn the holy month of Magh the sun enters the southern hemisphere, and the days begin to grow longer and warmer. Lord Vishnu, the Preserver is thanked for his efforts. On Maghe Sankrati (the first day of Magh) people take an early morning bath in a holy river, visit the shrines of Vishnu, and present flowers, incense and food to him. They read the Bhagwad Gita, also known as the song of the Gods, rub mustard oil over their bodies, and enjoy feasts of rice cooked with lentils. Yams or taruls – a must – and laddu, sweets make of sesame and a sugarcane paste.
Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja top
bashanta panchamiBasanta or spring ushers in the loveliest time of the year. Crowds gather at Katmandu’s Durbar Square while King and other dignitaries welcome the season as a band plays the traditional song of spring. A different celebration occurs at Swayambhu and at the Nil Barahi shrine near Lazimpat. Saraswati, the goddess of learning, arts and crafts is worshiped at her temples Artists, musicians, teachers, and students bring flowers, unbroken rice, and other gifts to please her.
Mahasivaratri top
maha sivaratriBasanta or spring ushers in the loveliest time of the year. Crowds gather at Katmandu’s Durbar Square while King and other dignitaries welcome the season as a band plays the traditional song of spring. A different celebration occurs at Swayambhu and at the Nil Barahi shrine near Lazimpat. Saraswati, the goddess of learning, arts and crafts is worshiped at her temples Artists, musicians, teachers, and students bring flowers, unbroken rice, and other gifts to please her.
 
March - April top
     
•  Loshar   •  Ghode Jatra
•  Holi of Fagu Purnima   •  Biska Jatra
•  Chhaitya Dasain   •  Red Machindranath Jatra
     
 
Lhosar
lhosar Sherpas and Tibetans welcome their New Year with feasts, family visits and dancing. Families don their finest clothes and jewelry and exchange gifts. Buddhist monks offer prayers for good health and prosperity, and perform dances at the monasteries. Colorful prayer flags decorate streets and rooftops; the colors seem especially brilliant at the Bouddha an Swayambhu stupas. Crowds of celebrants at Bouddha bring in the New Year by throwing tsampa (roasted barley flour) into the air.
 
Holi or Fagu Purnima top
falgu purnima Fagu Purnima is one of the most colorful and playful festivals of Nepal. He chir pole, decorated with colorful flags and erected on the first day of fagu at Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, is a formal announcement to all: hide your good clothes, for throughout the week you may be splashed with colored powder and water balloons. The last day is wildest: youths covered with red vermillion powder roam the streets as inviting targets.
Chaitya Dasain top
chaitya dashain Red vermillion powder, Family blessings and goat and duck sacarifies are essential to praise the victory of Ram, hero of the epic Ramayana, over the evil king Rawan. Mother Goddess Durga, the sources of all power, must be supplicated too, for her powers helped Tam achieve his victory.
Ghode Jatra top
ghode jatra Visitors are often amazed by the fine horses of the Nepalese army, and Ghode Jatra is a time for the most graceful of these animal to perform before the public eyes. Legends relate that this “horse festival” was begun after the Kathmandu people buried a demon under the soil of Tundikhel showgrounds. They say that he may rise again and cause worry to the worked if he is not trampled on by horses each year. So every spring, this victory over evil is celebrated in the Balley by organizing palanquin processions and a grand display of show jumping, motorcycling feats, and gymnastics. The King and Queen, the Living Goddess Kumari, and thousands of people from all over the country are a part of the jatra audience.
Biska Jatra top
biska jatra During this important festival. The old kingdom of Bhaktapur and its neighboring areas replay a drama passed on over the centuries. Images of wrathful and somewhat demonic deities are placed on tottering chariots. They are offered blood sacrifices, flowers, and coins. Men brimming with youthful vigor and rice beer drag the chariots across brick-paved streets of the town, and wherever these raths stop, lamps are lit and devotees overflow into the surrounding alleys. Other gods and goddesses. Too, are put on palanquins and carried around so that they may see the sights, at bode village, there is a tongue-boring ceremony in which the dedicated may reserve a place in heaven.
Red Machindranath Jatra top
red machindranathUntil a few decades age, before the Kathmandu valley became a purely commercial hub, it was an agricultural land which depended upon the rainy monsoon for its important rice crop. Today, though traditional farming practices have reduced, the pre monsoon season still sees great worship made to red machhendranath – a rain god. Patan’s streets and palace complex are made even more evocative by wavering lamp and candle lights, women busily cooking fe4asts, and men gathering strength to pull the chariot of their red deity. As lord machhendranath views this followers from the high seat of his chariot, its four wheel – representing the powerful Bhairab – receive rice and vermilion powder, the king of serpents is asked for blessings, and his jeweled vest is shown to the public.
 
May - June top
     
•  Buddha Jayanti    
•  Gunla    
 
Buddha Jayanti
buddha jayanti The ever-benevolent Buddha was born in Nepal, and religion he preached is the second most popular in the kingdom. On May 6th a full moon day, the Lord’s birth, enlightment , and salvation are applauded throughout the valley with celebrations. Swayambhu and Boudhanath Stupas are prepared for the oncoming festivities several days in advance. Monasteries are cleaned , statues are polished, bright prayer flags waft in the breeze, and monks prepare to dance. On the Jayanti day, people reach the stupas before dawn, go around them and give offerings to the many Buddha images there.
 
Gunla top
gunla The monsoon has arrived, and the fields have been planted . it is time for Kathmandu Valley Buddhists to observe Gunla. The month long festivities celebrate a “ rains retreat” initiated twenty-five centuries age by the Buddha. It is a time for prayer, fasting, meditation and religious music. Worshippers climb past jungles. Stone animals, great statues of Buddha, and begging monkeys to Swayambhu’s hilltop where daily prayers begin before dawn. Oil lamps, prayer flags, religious statues, and scroll paintings adorn the monasteries as temple bells chime and powerful scents fill the air . Important Buddhist statues and monasteries are on display at the monasteries, and the teachings of Lord Buddha are remembered as the rains nurture the rice, Nepal’s most important crop.
July - August top
     
•  Janai Prnima and Raksha Bandhan    
•  Gai Jatra    
 
Janai Prnima and Raksha Bandhan
janai purnima On Janai Purnima, a full moon day, high caste Hindus chant the powerful Gayatri mantra and change their Sacred Thread (Janai), while a raksya bandhan, a red or yellow protection cord is tied around the wrists of other Hindus and Buddhists. Pilgrims journey to the mountains north of Kathmandu. Here the emulate Lord Shiva by bathing in the sacred lake of Gosaikunda. Those unable to make the trek celebrate at Shiva’s Kumbeswor Mahadev temple. Here, a pool with an image of Shiva at its center is filled with water believed to have come from Gosaikunda.
 
Gai Jatra top
gai jatra The Gai, or cow is holy to Hindus. She represents Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, and guides the souls of the departed to the gates of the Netherworld. But Gai Jatra is not a somber occasion, Satire, jokes, fancy costumes, and colorful processions are the order of the day as people recall how an eighteenth – century king rallied his people to cheer his queen upon the death of their son. Those who have experienced the death of close ones during the past year share their sorrow and take comfort in the fact that the Gai has safely transported the departed souls on their afterlife journey.

Young men wearing women’s saris, children dressed up as cows, and whimsical characters of all sorts fill the streets. Special issues of local magazines poke fun at everyone and everything – even the most important people aren’t spared.
September - October top
     
•  Teej   •  Dasain
•  Indra Jatra   •  Mani Rimdu
 
Teej
teej Pashupati, the temple of Shiva, is drenched in crimson during Teej as women in their fine red wedding saris crowd the temple grounds. This unique women’s festival is marked by fasting, folk sons, and dancing as the women recall Parbati’s devotion to her husband Shiva. Married women visit their father’s homes. Al daughters and sisters receive gifts from their male kin, and an elaborate feast is prepared for them. It’s a loud and cheerful celebration until late at night, when strict fasting begins. Unmarried women who fast on this day will have good luck in finding suitable husbands. Married women who fast will find their husbands faithful and will see the bond of love growl the blessings of Shiva and Parbati ensure that family life will be joyous for all.
 
Indra Jatra top
indra jatraIndra, King of Heaven and Controller of the rains, has once again blessed the Valley. As the end of the monsoon nears, farmers look forward to rich harvest: everyone is grateful to the deva for his help. For eight days, Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is the focus of a great celebration fit to “flatter the King of Heaven”. Indra’s dhwoj, or flag, is erected on the first day. It is said that many centuries ago, indra’s mother needed specially – scented flowers but could not find them in heaven’s gardens. Indra discovered parijat flowers in the Kathmandu Balley and tried to steal them for his mother, he was caught and imprisoned by the valley people. When indra’s mother came searching for him the people were appalled by what the had done they released Indra and dedicated one of the most colorful festivals of Nepal to him to appease his anger, masks and statues representing Vishnu, Bhairab and Shiva are shown to the public and Goddess Kumari witnesses the special occasion from her chariot, Indra is thanked for the rains and assured once again that he is respected in the Kathmandu valley.
Dasain
dasainDasai is the longest and most favorite festival of Nepal. Everyone stays home with their families, offices close and Radio Nepal plays Dasain music, the skies of Kathmandu are filled with kites and the market places are filled with farmers bringing their buffaloes, goats and chickens to sell. The animals are to be sacrificed on the night of Kal Ratri to the goddess Durga to celebrate her victory over evil. On the day of Dashami, everyone puts on new clothes and goes to honor their family elders, where they receive large red Tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. In the following days of Dasai, families and friends unite , feasts are consumed, blessings are imparted and gifts are exchanged, Nepal’s most beloved festival ends with the full moon.
Mani Rimdu top
mani rimduIt is a Sherpa festival celebrated during the fall at Tengboche Monastery in the Everest region. For five days, Lamas and Sherpas gather for “the good of the world”. There are plays, masked dances, prayers, and feastings. Demons are quelled and the pious rewarded. The days are colorful and trips to the Everest region are very rewarding indeed if they can be organized during the days of the festival.
November - December top
     
•  Tihar   •  Bibaha Panchami
•  Bala Chaturdarsi   •  Yomari Punhi
 
Tihar
tihar Tihar, known as the Festival of Lights, is a time of candlelight, tinsel decorations and festive colored sweets. On different days, there are offerings and small celebrations for crows, dogs, sows and oxen. On the night of Laxmi Puja, garlands are hung and lamps are lighted to invite Laxmi, the goddess of wealth , into the home. Mha Puja, the new year’s Day according to the Nepal Era, is the day of the self, when people give themselves blessings to remain healthy and happy for the rest of the year. Bhai Tikka, the last day of Tihar, is the day when sisters make offerings to their brothers. The rituals of breaking a wal-nut, putting on garlands of makhmali flowers and encircling brothers in rings of mustard oil protects them from Yama, lord of the Netherworld.
 
Bala Chaturdarsi top
bala chaturdasi This simple, festive day takes place in the ancient forest surrounding the temple of Pashupatinath. It is one of the oldest tradition of the valley. Families who have lost a loved one in the last year keep an all night vigil in the forest, lighting oil lamp and singing songs. Following a ritual morning bath, people walk through the forest, scattering seven types of grain along the path and over the Linga of Lord Shiva to give merit to their late kinsmen and to cleanse the sins of a mythological man called Bala who had been transformed into a demon.
Bibaha Panchami
bibaha panchami All the people of the Hindu world know the story of the marriage of the hero Ram and the princess Sita, as told in the epic Ramayana. King Janak, Sita’s father, proposed a test of strength for the suitors of his daughter: to string the great bow of Lord Shiva. Warriors, kings and chieftains came from afar, but no man could even lift the bow. Tam lifted the bow with ease and when he tried to string in, the bow shattered into pieces. Tam and Sita were married in Janakpur, now in southern Nepal, and their marriage is celebrated to this day. Each year, idols of Ram and Sita are brought out in procession and their Hindu wedding ceremony is reenacted during a week long religious fair. Bibaha Panchami reflects the devotion of Hindus to Ram, perhaps the most popular among the incarnations of Vishnu, and to Sita, the model of the ideal Hindu woman.
Yomari Punhi top
As the new rice is brought in, the farmers of the valley prepare for Yomari Punhi, an offering to the gods in thanks for the abundant harvest. The Yomari is a special cake made from the flour of new rice, A shell of dough is filled with melted raw sugar and sealed, after the cake is steamed, it is presented to the gods as offering. Later it is eaten as blessed food. Thus each year, when the store rooms are full and the farmer’s toil has been rewarded, the gods are thanked for their benevolence and generosity.
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