Religious Festivals

Festivals in Nepal begin with religion, ending as social event. There are more than 50 major festivals in a year celebrated by Nepalis. Although most of these festivals are religious some have historical significance, while others are seasonal celebrations.

The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati’s victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. Other important religious festivals are: Machhendranath Jatra, Indra Jatra, Lhosar, Teeji, Dumji, Mani Rimdu, Maghi, Chhat, Christmas, Id, Shivaratri and many more.

It is not hard to catch colorful processions of festivals in different streets of the Valley almost every other day of the week. Cultural acts of dances and songs are integral parts of some celebrations while some celebrations are just quiet family gatherings. Grand celebrations like Ghode Jatra, Gai Jatra and Shivaratri entertain participants and spectators every year.

Buddha Purnima – Nepal is the birth place of Lord Buddha. The anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death is observed on a full-moon day in May every year. People celebrate the occasion by paying homage to Buddha. Lumbini and Swayambhunath, Bauddhanath in Kathmandu are thronged with devotees during Buddha Purnima.

Dashain – Dashain is the most important festival among Nepalis. The entire population of Nepal celebrates the festival that falls between mid September to mid October. Nepalis celebrate Dashai by buying new clothes, eating good food and visiting family members. Card games are very popular during this time. Various fairs and celebration events are organized during the Dashain fortnight in both villages and cities.

Dumji – Dumji is one of the sacred ceremonies of the Sherpa community celebrated in the month of July in the Namche region. The Sherpas of Kathmandu and Helambu regions also participate in dancing on this day.

Gai Jatra – Gai Jatra is an eight-day carnival of dancing, singing, mirth and laughter. The festival usually falls in July or August. As part of the festival family members of those who died in the past year send people dressed as cow to parade on the streets. The festival seems to be a reminder that despite death and separation, life still needs to go on.

Tihar – Tihar is the festival of lights. This five-day celebration of Tihar falls either in October or November, generally a fortnight after Dashain and are partaken with equal joy by all Nepalis. Houses are illuminated at night and special sweets of different varieties are prepared. Tihar, like Dashain, is a series of family events. Goddess Lakshmi is remembered and offered worship on Lakshmi Puja Day.

Lhosar – Lhosar which falls on a new-moon day in February is celebrated by Tibetan-speaking population. Songs and dances are organized and devotees throng Bauddhanath in Kathmandu and other Buddhist shrine for celebration and worship.

Maha Shiva Ratri – Shiva Ratri which literally means the Night of Lord Shiva, is celebrated by all Hindus in the month of February. Religious fairs are organized at several places. Thousands of devotees throng Pashupatinath Temple for a ‘darshan’ of Lord Shiva on this day.

Teeji – The Teeji festival is celebrated in Mustang in May or June and lasts for about three days. This festival commemorates the victory of Dorjee Sonnu, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Buddha, over a demon called Man Tam Ru, a vicious creature which ate human flesh and caused storms and droughts. During this festival dances are performed by the lamas at Lo Manthang.

Mani Rimdu – Mani Rimdu is one of the most important festivals celebrated in the Tengboche Monastery in the Everest region of Solukhumbu. This nine-day festival is s string of ceremonies and supplemented by periods of meditation (Drupchen) and concluded by a special blessing given by the Tengboche Rinpoche to the audience. It is also famous for the mask dances performed by the monks at Tengboche Monastery.