Festivals

Festival Details -Nepal –More

Swasthani (Jan – Feb)

The Swasthani Festival takes place between January and February. The Goddess Swasthani’s three eyes burn like the sun. She is the ultimate giver of gifts although if insulted, she can make life miserable.
By worshipping Swasthani, Parbati attained Lord Shiva as her husband. In the worship rites of Swasthani (as set out by Parbati) the Swasthani Scripture is read every evening for one month. Worshipping Swasthani is believed to remove curses, unite parted relatives and could result in limitless gifts.

Maghe Sankranti (Jan – Feb)

Maghe Sankranti is the beginning of the holy month of Magh, usually the mid of January. It brings an end to the ill-omened month of Poush (mid-December) when all religious ceremonies are forbidden. Even if it is considered the coldest day of the year, it marks the coming of warmer weather and better days of health and fortune.
This day is said to be the most significant day for holy bathing despite the weather. This ritual usually takes place at the union of sacred rivers and streams. Sankhamole, on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, below Patan, is thought to be amongst the most sacred sites for this purpose, though there has been a decline in the fulfillment of this ritual in the recent years due to water pollution in the river. But people still go in the wee hours of dawn just to sprinkle themselves with the water. They pay homage to various deities specially the temple of Red Machhendranath and Agnimata.

In addition to holy bathing and worship of shrines, certain auspicious foods like till laddoos (sea same seeds ball cakes), chaku (molasys), ghee (clarified butter), sweet potatoes, khichari (mixture of rice and lentils) and green leaf spinach are taken on this day. Families come together and share these delights. Married daughters and families are invited to parental homes for festivities and blessings. Yet another occasion to renew family ties. Many homes have pujas (religious ceremonies) conducted by priests with chanting from holy books, for which they receive alms.
Like any other holy celebration Maghi Sankranti also has a legend of its own. It recalls that once a merchant from the town of Bhadgoan despite of his thriving business noticed that his supply of sea same seeds hadn’t diminished. When looking into the matter he found an idol of the Lord Vishnu hidden deep beneath the seeds. Since, then on this day the Til Mahadev idol is worshipped with the belief that god will continue to be generous in the supply of food and wealth on the Bhadgoan community. It’s also the day commemorating the death of Viswapitamaha, the elderly grandfather of two families of Pandavas and Kauravas, between whom the famous battle of Mahabharata took place. He was determined not to die until the way to the region of gods opened. While lying on the bed of arrows he discovered words of wisdom on life and death. Eventually, through his free will he succumbed to death. Hence it’s believed that those who die on this day go to heaven, released from the burden of rebirth. Maghi Sankranti is yet another occasion which renews the faith of Nepalese people in the heavenly powers.

Saraswati Puja (Jan – Feb)

Saraswati Puja or Shree Panchami is a day to celebrate the birthday of Saraswati – the Goddess of Learning. This is a day when people from school students to scholars worship their pens and books to please the Goddess and expect her favor in their studies so they become wise and knowledgeable.
People also throng around the idol of Goddess Saraswati, especially in Swayambhunath and offer flowers, sweets, fruits, etc. On this day, small children are taught to read and write and people write on the stones and slabs with chalks and pencils. This day falls between January/February which is regarded as a very auspicious day for marriages too as it is believed that Goddess Saraswati herself blesses the couples. Normally it is the astrologers who fix the marriage date and time in Nepal.
Dates of Festivals and Events in Nepal & Tibet 2011-12
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Lhosar (Tibetan New Year, Jan – Feb)

This is the New Year of the Tibetans and Sherpa of Nepal which falls in the month of January, February. The Buddhist monasteries in Kathmandu like Boudhanath and Swayambhunath are decorated with eye catching colorful prayer flags pulling the crowd. The people perform their traditional dances and welcome their New Year with feasts and family gatherings wearing all the new clothes and finest jewelries and exchanging gifts. These dances can also be seen in Khumbu, Helambu and other northern regions on Nepal.

Shivaratri / Maha Shivaratri (Feb – March)

Shivaratri or the night of Lord Shiva that falls sometime between February/March is one of the major festivals of Nepal. This day is dedicated to the Lord of the Lords – Lord Shiva or Mahadev ho lived in Mt. Kailash in the Himalayas. Lord Shiva is the most worshipped God in the Hindu religion. More than 100,000 of Hindu devotees from India and Southeast Asia throng weeks ahead of the festival and gather in and around Pashupatinath temple – one of the holiest shrines of the Hindus in Kathmandu to pay their homage to Lord Shiva on his birthday. “Pashupatinath” literally means “the Lord of animals” as Lord Shiva is considered as the guardian and protector of everything that exists in the Nepal. On this holy day, worshippers take dip and bath in the holy river at early dawn and fast for the whole day and stay around fire to keep them warm as it is still winter in Nepal. In the afternoon an official function is held to celebrate this festival at Tundikhel. The Nepal Army organises a show in which series of gun fire are sounded. The devotees also freely indulge in using marijuana and other intoxicating substances as these things are believed to please Lord Shiva and marijuana use is legal only on this sacred day.

Fagu Purnima / Holi (Feb – March)

his festival of water and colors that falls between February/March is also known as “Fagu” in Nepal. This day is observed to rejoice the extermination of female demon Holika who together with her King Brother conspired to kill his son Pralhad, an ardent devotee of Lord Vishnu. This day, playful people especially the young ones wander through the streets in groups on foot or vehicles with various colors smeared all over them and the people in houses make merry throwing colors and water balloons at each other and also to these people on the streets.

Sweta Machhendranath Snan (Jan.)

The Sweta (or white) Machhendranath festival takes place during a week each January. The image of Sweta Machhendranath is bathed, oiled, perfumed and painted. The living goddess Kumari visits him at his elaborate temple near Ason Tol.
If Sweta Machhendranath is pleased by the music, offerings and attentions paid by his devotees, the people of the Kathmandu Valley can look forward to satisfactory rainfall during the planting season.

Ghode Jatra (Festival of Horses, March – April)

This horse racing festival takes place between March/April and a grand horse parade takes place at Tundikhel. Although this festival does not have much of religious aspects, a large number of people, even from outside Kathmandu flock around Kathmandu to witness the horse race and other exciting sports activities performed by the Army.
Legends relate that this horse festival was begun after the Kathmandu people buried a demon under the soil of Tudikhel show grounds. They say that he may rise again and cause worry to the world if horses do not trample him on each year. So, every spring, this victory over evil is celebrated in the valley by organizing palanquin process and a fantastic display of show jumping, motorcycling feats and gymnastics.

Chaite Dashain (April)

Also known as small Dasain, in contrast with big Dasain in the month of Kartik, this Festival is celebrated on the eighth day of the lunar month of Chaitra and takes place exactly six month prior to the main Dasain. Goddess Durga is worshipped on this day.
The Chaitie Dasain festival also is the time to start Seto (White) Machhendra Nath Chariot festival. The festival starts with removing the image from the Temple at Kel tole and placing it on a towering wooden chariot or Rath. For the next four evenings the chariot proceeds from one historic location to another location, eventually arriving at Lagan tole in the south of Kathmandu- the place of mother of Machhendra Nath.
There the image is taken down from chariot and carried back to its starting point in palanquin.

Ram Nawami (April)

Ram Nawami is celebrated as Lord Ram’s Birthday and festival to worship Lord Ram. It is celebrated with much pomp at Janaki temple in Janakpur city, which lies in southern Nepal. Huge processions of elephants, bullock carts and sometimes up to 100,000 pilgrims go through the city, dancing and singing the lord’s praises. In Kathmandu many people go to the temples to pay homage to Ram, while symposiums are held to exalt the ideal life he lived. In Bhaktapur, the neighboring town of Kathmandu, the people go to the banks of the river Hanumante, where a temple bearing the idols of Ram and his loyal servant Hanuman is situated. Thus, Ram Nawami is celebrated throughout the great fanfare.

Navavarsha (Nepali New Year, April – May)

Nepal has its official calendar that begins from the first day of the first month Baishak. It is known as “Navavarsha” in Nepal. This very first day is observed as Nepali New Year which usually falls in the first/second week of April. People go for picnics, have get-togethers and celebrate the day socializing in various ways as this day is also a national holiday.
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Bisket Jatra (April – May)

“Bisyau” jatra meaning the festival celebrated in the memory of slaying of serpents. In the passage of time the term changed from ‘Bisyau’ to Bisket jatra. The festival is celebrated at Bhaktapur, a medieval town from 12th century, still maintained in the same manner and only 13km East of Kathmandu.
Since the Bisket begins in the last days of the Nepalese year and ends in the beginning days of the New Year it is regarded as the New year festival as well. During the seven days of the festival chariots of God. Bhairava and Goddess Bhadrakali are pulled with lot of merriment within the town limits. At a place called Lyasinkhel a lyasin or a tall pole is erected with two long embroidered cloths hanging from it. These cloths represent two evil serpents who in the past had troubled the royal family by mysteriouly killing every suitor to the princess at night. Ultimately a brave prince with the blessings of Goddess Bhadrakali came along and killed them even as they appeared from the nostrils of the sleeping princess and began to enlarge themselves. Thus, to show the townspeople the cause of previuos suitors’ death they were hung from the pole and at present the cloths represent them.

Buddha Jayanti (April – May)

Buddha’s birth anniversary is celebrated every year during full moon day of May in Nepal. On this day people swarm in Swayambhunath, Boudhanath and Patan to pay homage to Lord Buddha and also visit Buddha’s birth place in Lumbini and chant prayers and burn butter lamps. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautam but he abandoned his luxurious life when he realized the misery of mankind and went in search of enlightenment.

Red Machhendranath Rath Jatra (April – May)

This festival is the biggest socio – cultural event of Patan. The wheeled chariot of deity known as Bungdyo or Red Machhendranath is made at Pulchowk and dragged through the city of Patan is several stages till in reaches the appointed destination. The grand finale of the festival is called the Bhoto Dekhaune or the showing of a vest” A similar kind of chariot festival to Machhendranath is also held in Kathmandu city in the month of March April.

Gokarna Aunsi (Father’s day)

The Nepali religion, tradition and culture hold a lot of reverence for a father. He is considered the pillar of strength, respect and support of a family. The most auspicious day to honor one’s father is Gokarna Aunsi. It falls on the dark fortnight in August or in early September. A day when children show their gratitude and appreciation for his guidance and teachings in life. Sons and daughters, near or far, come with presents and confections to spend the day with their fathers. Children spend their hoarded coins on presents, which expresses honor and love in their own special ways. The streets are a happy scene with married daughters scene of married daughters on their way to their parents’ home with delicacies. After the offering of gifts, they touch their father’s feet with their foreheads, this act of veneration is done by the sons only , the daughters touch the hand. The ceremony is also known as “looking upon father’s face”.
People with or without fathers worship the Gokarneswor Mahadev on this day. It is a sacred shrine of lord Shiva, renowned for his singularly close communion with the souls of dead. The shrine lies in Gokarna village, five miles east of Kathmandu. The fatherless people honor the memory of their fathers and promote welfare of his soul here.
Mythology has placed the Gokarna shrine in prehistoric times when Lord Shiva hid himself in the Pashupatinath forest, disguised as a one-horned golden deer, from the gods and mankind. While he spent his days frolicking, the world suffered so Lord Vishnu, the preserver, Lord Brahma, the creator and Lord Indra, the king of Gods, took matters into their hands and searched for him. Finally a goddess revealed Shiva’s disguise. So when they finally caught the deer by the horn, it burst into fragments and Shiva revealed himself. He asked the other three gods to establish his horn in their three worlds. So, Vishnu installed his section in his abode in Vaikuntha, Indra in his realm in heaven and Brahma enshrined it at the sacred site of Gokarneshwor. The following day the gods and goddesses descended and bathed in Bagmati River, paid homage to Shiva and established the present day tradition of ancestor worship at Gokarna.
Gokarna Aunsi is yet another festival in the continuous procession of holy days, wherein homage is paid deities and the bonds of family and kinship is renewed and strengthened.

The Teechi (May) Top 

The Teechi (also pronounced “Teeji”) festival is an annual event indigenous to Lo-Manthang (Upper Mustang). The name is an abbreviation of the word “Tempa Chirim” which translates as “Prayer for World Peace”. This festival commemorates the victory of Lord Buddha’s incarnation “Dorjee Sonnu” over a demon called Man Tam Ru, a vicious creature feeding on human beings and causing storms and droughts.
The Teeji festival usually takes place during the last week of May and last for 3 days. Dances performed by the monks of Lo Manthang’s  “choedhe” monastery during the celebration display. The harassment of Ma Tam Ru Ta (in a dance called “Tsa Chham” on the first day), the birth of Dorjee Sonnu s the demon’s son (on the second day called “Nga Chham”), theattempt to return the demon to lord Buddha’s realm (on the third and final day). The Teeji festival dances are all organized by the Choedhe Monastery, which is that of the Shakya sect of Lo Manthang.

Guru Purnima (June – July)

Teachers come second (after the gods) in the Hindu hierarchy of respect. The full moon day of the month June/July is set aside for students to pay homage to their teachers and receive blessings from them in return. Worshipping a guru is like worshipping truth, knowledge and invaluable experiences. Gu means darkness and Ru means the remover of that darkness. A true Guru removes darkness (Maya or worldly desires) and shows the way to peace and sanctity of the conscious mind. On this day students and disciples visit their elders, teachers and guides in order to show respect to them with gifts of coconuts, flowers and sweets. These gifts are called ‘Gurudakshina’. This day is also commemorated in the name of the famous sage Ved Vyas. The occasion is also known as Vyas Purnima. The sage Ved Vyas is considered the original Guru of the Hindu Dharma. At a place called Vyas on the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway, special worship is performed to Maharishi Vyas, the saint who wrote the great Hindu epic, Mahabharat. For Buddhists, the occasion (Dilla Punhi) is sacred as the day when the Buddha-to-be entered the womb of Queen Mayadevi. Religious functions are held at monasteries and temples to commemorate the event.

Dumji (July)

This is a very special festival in the Khumbu area celebrated in the month of May or June every year. There is much dancing, drinking and merry making in addition to the more serious rituals and dances performed by the monks.
The Dumji festival celebrates and honors the anniversary of Guru Rinpoche’s birth on the lotus flower. Lama Sangwa Dorgje is the founder of the earliest monasteries of Khumbu and he was the first to start the Dumji festival in Pangboche about 360 years ago in order to coincide with the birth anniversary of Guru Rimpoche.
The festival serves as a religious and community duty to help bring the villagers together. Every twenty years it falls upon one family to provide food and drink for the entire village for the duration of the celebrations, which last for 4 days. Each family has its turn to provide the festival for the village, which is quite costly for that family. On a rotation basis, four laws are chosen to undertake the responsibility of conducting Dumji and sometimes it leads a family to bankruptcy.
Dumji Festival is performed by the Tengboche Monks in Tengboche, Namche Bazaar, Khumjung and Pangboche of Khumbu and Junbesi of Solu. The Festival in Namche is the most interesting and popular one among them all. These dates may vary by one or more days as the Tengboche Rinpoche, Abbot of Tengboche Monastery, may alter the schedule depending on local events.

Ghantakarna Chaturdashi (July-Aug)

This festival falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of Shrawan. Ghanta Karna, which means “Bell Ears”, was a horrible demon who was so named because he wore bell earrings to drown out the name of Vishnu, his sworn enemy. The festival celebrates his destruction when a god, disguised as a frog, lured him in to a deep well where the people stoned him to death. Ghanta Karna is burnt in effigy on this night and evil is cleansed from the land for another year.

Gunla Festival Nepal (July-Aug)

Following the arrival of the monsoons and the planting season in the fields, Buddhists in the Kathmandu Valley observe the Gunla festival. The month long event celebrates a ‘rains retreat’ initiated 25 centuries ago by the Buddha.
Gunla is a time for prayer, fasting, meditation and religious music. Worshippers climb past jungles, stone animals, great statues of Buddha and begging monkeys to the hilltop at Swayambhu where daily prayers begin before dawn. Oil lamps, prayer flags, religious statues and paintings adorn the monasteries whilst temple bells chime and powerful incense fills the air. Important statues are put on display and the teachings of Lord Buddha are remembered as the rains feed the rice crop.

Janai Purnima & Raksha Bandhan (July – Aug)

n Janai Purnima, when the moon is full in August, high caste Hindus chant the powerful Gayatri mantra and change their Sacred Thread (or janai) while a red or yellow protection chord (a rakshya bandhan) is tied around the wrists of other Hindus and Buddhists. Many pilgrims journey to the mountains north of Kathmandu to emulate Lord Shiva by bathing in the sacred lake of Gosaikunda. Those unable to make the trek north, celebrate at Shiva’s Kumbheshwor Mahadev temple. Here a pool with an image of Shiva at its centre is filled with water believed to have come from Gosaikunda.