Nepal is not only the land of mountains; it is also the land of festivals. There are more than 50 festivals celebrated in Nepal every year. While the national festivals have fixed dates, religious festivals are set by astrologers following the lunar calendar. The best part about the festivals in Nepal is that all the events are celebrated with the same enthusiasm and galore the way they used to be hundreds of years ago when people had no other means of entertainment.
Religious practices are an important part of the lives of the Nepalese people. Mythologies of various Hindu gods and goddesses abound in this country and cultural values are based on the philosophies of holy books, this is important to all travelers in Nepal and to respect the nature and mountain spirit and its culture.
Dates as per Hindu / Buddhist Lunar calendar of the auspicious occasion of following festivals and celebrations and worship day and seasons of following events.
The dates and month may differ every year from Nepali Luna calendar Bikram Sambath B.S. to common christen calendar A.D.
Jan 12: Lhosar of Tibetan Buddhism calendar this year 2015 Year of the Sheep celebrated among Gurung community throughout the country.
Jan 14: Maghe Sankranti
It is a celebration of the harvest festival. People take dips in rivers and worship the Sun God, especially in the holy river. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow “Punya”. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for a good harvest. According to folklore, girls who take the holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful brides.
Jan 29: Martyrs Day respect to the national heroes who suffered died for the country anniversary and tribute of the Martyrs and freedom fighter.
Feb 11: Sonam Lhosar:
Tibetan Buddhism calendar this year 2015 Year of the Sheep celebrated among Tamang tribe community throughout the country.
Feb 18: National Democracy Day:
Celebrated with public holidays after the overthrown of aristocrat Rana regime who ruled for more than a hundred years.
Mar 10: Shiva Ratri
Lord Shiva is one of Nepal’s most popular gods. During Maha Shivaratri, his “Great Night”, followers throughout the Indian sub-continent crowd the Pashupati temple to worship him. Colorful Sadhus, the wanderings sages who emulate Shiva, rub ashes over their bodies, give lectures to disciples, meditate, or practice yoga. Devotees pray to Shiva’s image inside the temple at midnight and may queue for up to six hours to look at the image. Bonfires are lit, neighbors and friends share food, and devotees enjoy two days and a night of music, song, and dance throughout the Pashupatinath complex and in the streets.
There will be elaborate arrangements enabling sadhus and devotees to pay darshan to the Lord Pashupatinath during the Mahashivaratri. Makeshift shelters will be provided for visiting Sadhus and pilgrims from Nepal and India who are expected to arrive at the Pashupatinath area. The routes leading to the temple have been barricaded in order to regulate the entry and exit to the temple. Medical camps will be set up and medical services will be available round the clock for the needy. Mahashivaratri, or the night of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, falls on Wednesday night. It is the biggest festival observed in Pashupatinath.
Feb 12: Gyalbo Lhosar:
As per the Tibetan Buddhism calendar this year 2015 Year of the Sheep celebrated among the Tibetan / Sherpa community throughout the country.
March 26 & 27: Holi (Fagu Purnima) – Festival of colors:
Holi marks the end of the winter gloom and rejoices over the starting of the springtime. It is the best time and season to celebrate; People play with different colors.
April 10: 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 animals to perform before the public eye. 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 world if he is not trampled on by horses each year. So every spring, this victory over evil is celebrated in the Valley by organizing palanquin processions and a grand display of show jumping, motorcycling feasts, and gymnastics.
April 14: Nepalese New Year day – 2071 Bikram Sambat:
Nepalese New Years’ day observed in a grand way. One of the great Bisket Jatra happens in Bhaktapur which is not to be missed.
Nepali New Year started from the time of king Sambrat during the golden era of civilization and proper organization of towns and cities of the country, which is 55 to 56 years ahead of christens calendar. However, the tourism industry and related follow christens calendar, local schools and Government-run in Nepali Calendar.
April 19: Ram Navami:
Observed as a sacred day on which Lord Rama incarnated on this earth to do away with the evils. Devotees keep fasting and worship Lord Rama.
May 06,07 and 08: Tiji Festival in Lo Manthang-Mustang
Teej- The Chasing of the Demons
At this festival, the lamas perform a centuries-old ceremony to chase demons from Lo Manthang. Gripping human skull-tops laced with streamers, lamas chant prayers and perform, almost 50 separate religious dances. They are interrupted now by masked demons who flail wooden swords at the frightened spectators.
May 25, 2013: Buddha Jayanti:
The ever benevolent Buddha was born in Nepal, and the religion is preached is the second most popular in the Kingdom. On a full moon day, the Lord’s birth, enlightenment, and salvation are applauded throughout the valley with celebrations. Swayambhunath and Bouddhanath 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 an offering to the many Buddha images there. On the final day, in a nearby field, courtiers fire ancient muskets as a high lama shoots an arrow at a red demon effigy laid on a ragged tiger skin. He tosses five more demons into the sand to signify the exorcising of the city.
Aug 11: Nag Panchami:
Nag Panchami is the major sacred festival celebrated in Nepal by the Hindus. It is just to show respect to the snake mentioned in the ancient sacred Hindu scriptures. During these festivals snakes are bathed with milk, Haldi-kumkum is sprinkled on their heads. Milk and rice are offered as Prasad to the snakes. Cow’s milk is an indispensable item to worship the Nags. It’s believed that if Nags are enraged; they can make us lame, blind, and etc defects. That’s why Nags are thought to be very dangerous creatures. So they are worshipped on this day by the people to escape from their fear. It’s believed that; if some worship nicely to the Nags on this day; he will be free from any kind of snake’s bite. So people worship Nags for this reason as well on this day. Nags are believed to be the sources of water so the scriptures explain that they stay inside the sources of water from where it flows. So people worship to the spouts and springs’ sources in the belief of Nags residence.
August 21 and 22: Janai Purnima and Gai Jatra:
A most colorful religious procession of cows and people with peculiar headdresses painted as a figure of cows goes around the marketplaces. Relatives of the deceased of that year send religious groups to join the precession. 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 Gaijatra is not a somber occasion. Satire, jokes, fancy costumes, and colorful processions are the order of the day as people recall how an eighteen-century king rallied his people to cheer his queen upon the death of their son. Those who have experienced the death of a close one during the past year share their sorrow and take comfort in the fact that the Gai (cow) 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.
August 28: Shree Krishna Janmashtami
Hindus observe it by remaining awake the whole night performing religious dances and singing in the praise of Lord Krishna.
Sep 09: Teej – festival for women:
Teej is the fasting festival of women in Nepal. Married women observe Teej fast to honor Lord Shiva and for the long and healthy life of their husbands. Unmarried girls also observe fast on this day for a good husband. Teej celebrations last for three pious days. Traditional dances and songs form an important feature of Teej celebrations. The red color is considered auspicious for women observing Teej fast and so most of them dress up in red or bridal clothes.
September 18: Indra Jatra:
A weeklong festival begins by hoisting Lord Indri’s flag (Indradhoj) at midnight and the faces of Bhairava’s deities are displayed in important public places. Indra King of heaven and controller of the rains have once again blessed the Valley. As the end of the monsoon nears, farmers look forward to a rich harvest, everyone is grateful to the devas 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 Dhwaj, 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 (gladiolus) flowers in the Kathmandu Valley 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 they 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 the 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.
October 05 to October 18: Dasain:
October 05: Ghatasthapana:
The beginning of the greatest festival ‘Dasain’, lasts for nine days. Sowing of maize and barely called Jamara in the local language.
October 11: Phulpati:
The real festival becomes visible. Brahmins go to Gorkha Durbar and bring flowers, etc. from the shrine there and it then placed in the Pooja room of Hanuman Dhoka. His Majesty and other members of the Royal family witness the Army parade and accept the Guard of Honor.
October 12: Durga Puja (Maha Ashtami)- mass animal Sacrificing day:
Eight days after the festival is known as ‘Kalratri’. Animals (goats, buffaloes, and ducks, and chickens) sacrificed in the temples of Goddess Durga and also at homes. The offering of sacrifices continues on a ninth day too.
October 13: Mahanavami:
Period of Dashain festival and preparation for the big event.
October 14: Vijaya Dasami (Tika):
Elders and seniors in each Hindu house mark the foreheads of juniors with ‘Tika’ or red color marks. Respectable relatives are visited. Feasts are held, full of festivities.
October 18: Kojagrat Purnima
November 03 – 05: Tihar (festival of lights):
This is the second big festival of Hindus in Nepal. It is also 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, cows, 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 and offices. Maha Puja, the New Year’s Day according to the Nepal Era, is the day of the self when people give themselves blessing to remain healthy and happy for the rest of the year. Bhai Tika, the last day of Tihar, is the day when sisters make offerings to their brothers. The ritual of breaking wall-nuts, putting on garlands of Makhamali flowers, and encircling brothers in rings of mustard oil protect them from Yama, lord of the Netherworld. On the first day of the festival people worship ‘crows’ and on the second day ‘dog’ is worshipped in the morning and is given good food to eat.
November 03: Laxmi Puja:
Festival of Lights- Worship of Goddess of Wealth celebrate with great pomp and grandeur all over the Kingdom of Nepal.
November 04, 2013 – Gai Puja (Gobardhan Puja):
Hindus worship cows and regard this animal as a mother.
November 05: Bhai Tika:
Last day of the ‘Tihar’, sisters mark their brothers’ forehead with Tika, garland, sweets, and pray for their long life and prosperity.
November 09: Chath Parva
Is an ancient Hindu festival and the only Vedic Festival dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya, also known as Surya Shashti. The Chhath puja is performed in order to thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. The Sun, considered the god of energy and of the life-force, is worshiped during the Chhath festival to promote well-being, prosperity, and progress. In Hinduism, Sun worship is believed to help cure a variety of diseases, including leprosy, and helps ensure the longevity and prosperity of family members, friends, and elders.
The rituals of the festival are rigorous and are observed over a period of four days. They include holy bathing, fasting, and abstaining from drinking water (Vratta), standing in water for long periods of time, and offering prasad (prayer offerings) and arati to the setting and rising sun.
Nov 10-13: Mani Rimdu in Tengboche, Mani Rimdu in Chiwong Monastery – Khumbu & Everest region:
This is a Sherpa festival celebrated during the fall at Tengboche Monastery in the Everest region. For 5 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.
December 07: Bibah Panchami at Janakpur:
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 at a test of strength for the suitors of his daughter: to string the great bows of Lord Shiva. Warriors, Kings, and chieftains came from afar, but no man could even lift the bow. Ram lifted the bow with ease and when he tried to string it, the bow shattered into pieces. Ram and Sita were married in Janakpur, now in southern Nepal, and their marriage is celebrated to this day. Each year, the idols of Ram and Sita are brought out in procession and their Hindu wedding ceremony is re-enacted during a weeklong religious fair. Bibah 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.