Nepal is a country of diverse community and culture and has many different annual festivals celebrated nationally. Almost every day, Nepal and Nepalese are taking part in some sort of festivals and celebrations. The different communities have different festivals. Nepal has more annual festivals and holidays compare to other countries in the world. Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal have religious implication and some are based on important events from ancient mythology and epic literature.
Lapha holidays like to introduce you to some of the main festivals that are celebrated in Nepal.
Losar is celebrated among Gurung, Tamang and Sherpa ethnic groups who trace their history to Tibet. It is the first day of the New Year, and each community celebrates this festival differently. The date is never as exact as it falls the month of January or February. The Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu like Boudhanath and Swyambunath are crowed and decorated with eye-catching colourful prayer flags. The people perform their traditional dances and wear the traditional dress which is very fun to watch in the area of celebration.
Shivaratri is the Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Shiva or Mahadev and it is celebrated all over Nepal, India and Hindu countries. The Pashupatinath temple is the best place to witness the festival celebrations. It is a great time of the year to see Sadhus (Hindu Holy men) in Pashupatinath who come from India and Southeast Asia. It’s also the one day in Nepal when hashish is legal and you can see the devotee freely indulge in using marijuana in Pashupati Area.
Holi, also known as Fagun Purnima, is the celebrated among Hindu as the victory of Lord Krishna over the demoness Holika. Holi is a festival marked as the victory of good over evil. This festival is celebrated all over Nepal with water and colours. In this day, playful young people wander through the streets mainly in groups on foot or vehicles with various colours smeared all over them. Friends, relatives and family members gather together and smear colour powder and throw coloured waters, balloons and plastics over each other.
There are many music concerts in someplace popular cities such as Kathmandu, Pokhara where you can enjoy music, water and colour together. It’s important not to take any valuables out with you on this day, and wear old clothes and lotion on your hands and face which can make easier to wash off the dye later.
April- Bisket Jatra
Bisket Jatra is a major holiday in Nepal. It is also a Nepalese New year day. Bisket Jatra is celebrated widely among Newar Community. The Newar cities such as Bhaktapur, Patan, Kathmandu, Thimi are the best place to witness this festival. A huge chariot carrying the god Bhairab and Bhadrakali is pulled through the streets of Bhaktapur. During the festival, the people replay a drama passed on over the centuries. Jibro Chhedne Jatra, Sindoor Jatra are some of the celebrations of Bisket Jatra.
April-May-June- Rato Machhindranath Jatra
Rato Machhindranath Jatra is the three-day festival held in Patan starts at the beginning of Monsoon season. Machhindranath is the Newar god of rain. A large chariot is built-in Pulchowk Road over several weeks, the god Machchhendranath is placed inside and the chariots are driven throughout Patan and wider Lalitpur, towards Bungamati. The chariots and rituals during this festival are great to watch.
May- Buddha Jayanti
Buddha Jayanti is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Lord Buddha. On this day, people swarm in Swyambunath and Boudhanath to pay homage to Lord Buddha. Lumbini is, of course, the prime location however it gets very crowded and hotels are often fully booked. The pilgrimage sites of Buddha are decorated with colourful prayer flags.
August- Janai Purnima
Janai Purnima also is known as sacred thread festival is celebrated among Hindu. On this day, holy rivers are crowded with Brahmins and Chettris men as they perform prayers and change Janai, a thread across the shoulders. The people who do not wear Janai, they put Dora in their hands in the belief of good health. The people offer the feast of “Kwati”, a mixture of 9 lentils on this day. This day is also celebrated in the Terai region as Rakshya Bandhan which is the great festival among brothers and sisters. Gosaikunda, the sacred pond located at an elevation of 4,380 m in Rasuwa District, witnesses the great celebration on this day. It’s a low-key festival but worth nothing due to crowds.
August- Jai Jatra
Gai Jatra is one of the most popular festivals celebrated by Newar community residing in and around Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur with great enthusiasm and excitement. It is full of humour, comedy, satire, mockery and shades of sadness too. This festival marks the acceptance of death and celebrates to pay tribute to the departed soul. Every family who has lost a member, in the previous year, is supposed to lead a decorated cow through the city. In the absence of a cow, the oldest for a lost male member and the younger for a female can successfully take a role and dressed as a cow. Kathmandu Durbar Square and Bhaktapur is the great place to be during this festive day.
Teej is a celebration of Hindu women where women fast and pray Lord Shiva for marital bliss, the wellbeing of their spouse and children. In this day, women wear beautiful red saris and glass beads and can be seen singing and dancing in the Lord Shiva temples everywhere in Nepal. From early morning, women queue up in the multiple lines in Pashupatinath temple to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva. The men are prohibited to enter in Pashupatinath during this day.
September- Indra Jatra
Indra Jatra is the festival named after Lord Indra-the God of Rain. Both Hindu and Buddhist unite to celebrate this festival. The festival lasts for eight days with singing, mask dancing and chariot dragging and rejoicing. The mask elephant is known as Pulinkishi dance and Lakhe dance, Shova Bhagawati Dance are various classical dances perform on the street of Kathmandu during Indra jatra week. The chariot of Kumari, Bhairav and Ganesh – the living Goddess and God is taken through the main streets of Kathmandu. Kathmandu Durbar Square is the best place to be during Indra Jatra to witness unique Nepali culture.
Dashain is a nationwide festival celebrating Durga’s victory over evil. Most of the government offices, banks and even shop are closed for 5 days starting Fulpati to Bijaya Dashami. People return to their own villages and home and spend these days with their families. The goddess Durga temples are crowded by devotees during Dashain. The last day of Dashain is celebrated as Bijaya Dashami where family members receive Tika (a mixture of rice and red vermillion or yoghurt) on their forehead from their elders.
Tihar is Nepal’s second most important festival, after Dashain and last for five days. The best part of this festival is the lights. The people lit candles, oil lamps and other lights in the house and decorate their houses with flowers and worship Laxmi- the Goddess of Wealth. During Tihar, the Newar community in Nepal also observes Mha puja- a ritual of worshipping body. This day is also a Newari New Year day. The last day of Tihar is Bhai Tika where sister worships their brother for his long and healthy life to safeguard the life of his sister.
Christmas is celebrated among the Christian in Nepal. There is nothing much to see during Christmas. However, you can find Christmas tree decorated in some hotels, restaurants, bar and clubs in most of the tourism destination like Thamel and Pokhara with special Christmas meal offers.
There are many more festivals in Nepal such as Tiji, Chhath, Ram Navami, Krishna Janmashtami and many more celebrated in a different part of Nepal. If you are planning to visit Nepal to observe these festivals, then it is very important to confirm the exact date of the festival happening. Lapha Holidays is always there to help you with your date and provide other necessary information during your stay in Nepal.