The Most Interesting and Lively Festivals in Nepal
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Discover The Most Popular Celebrations and Rituals of Nepal
Nepal is a predominantly Hindu country with a small but significant Buddhist minority. Situated between India to the south, west and east, and China and Tibet to the north, Nepalese culture contains elements of the customs of its neighboring countries, in addition to exclusively Nepalese elements. All of this can be seen in Nepal's colorful religious festivals, which take place throughout the year.
Foreign travelers are generally welcome to participate in the festivities, as Nepalese tend to be very open about sharing their culture and beliefs with outsiders. Some festivals are held openly and highly public, while others take place more within the homes of families and communities. Some festivals take place in or around temples that are not open to non-Hindus.
These are some of the most interesting and lively festivals in Nepal that you can witness throughout the year, including Hindu and Buddhist festivals observed by many ethnic groups in Nepal. Most follow a lunar calendar system, or the Bikram Sambat calendar of Nepal, so the dates according to the Gregorian calendar change each year.
Dashain is the most important festival of the year for Nepalese Hindus. It is known as Navaratri in India, but it is celebrated very differently in Nepal and is of greater importance.
Dashain celebrates good overcoming evil and is also a harvest festival. People return to their hometowns to celebrate with their families. Animal sacrifices are performed in temples or in houses, especially goats and buffalo, which are eaten afterwards. The older ones put tikka (blessings) of vermilion red pasta mixed with rice grains and pasted with fresh green rice sprouts on the foreheads of the youngest of the family. Children play on swings made of bamboo poles.
Dashain takes place for 10-15 days between the end of September and the end of October. The first three days are the most important. Kathmandu is usually a ghost town during the early days of Dashain, so plan to leave Kathmandu when traveling during Dashain or prepare to rest for a few days in the capital.
Tihar follows Dashain for a few weeks (usually late October or early mid-November). It is called Diwali or Deepawali in India, and Deepawali for Nepalese Terai who live in the southern plains bordering India.
Tihar lasts three days and each day a different deity is worshiped. Women decorate their doors or thresholds outside their businesses with colorful rangoli patterns, lit by small candle-lit lamps designed to welcome the goddess Lakshmi (bringer of wealth) over the fireplace. One day Kukur Tihar is dedicated to the special bond between humans and dogs, and people bless their dogs with red tikka markings on their foreheads.
If you were in India during Diwali, you will notice a more relaxed atmosphere here; fireworks and rockets are a less important component of the festival in Nepal.
3. Indra Jatra (Yenya)
The Kathmandu Valley is made up of three main ancient kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan (Lalitpur), and Bhaktapur. The Newar are the indigenous peoples of the Kathmandu Valley, and the central parts of these three ancient kingdoms remain strongholds of Newar culture. Newar's population includes Hindus and Buddhists, and many of its traditions combine elements of both religions.
Indra Jatra (Yenya in Newari) is the most important Newar festival in Kathmandu. Masked dances are performed in the streets and squares around Basantapur Durbar Square, and a carriage is dragged through the streets containing the kumari, the "living goddess" of Kathmandu.
Intra Jatra usually takes place in late August or early September. The holidays can be very crowded and the weather is usually hot and humid at this time.
4. Bisket Jatra
Bisket Jatra coincides with the Nepalese New Year in April. Each of the three ancient kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley has its own chariot festival, and this is Bhaktapur. Two large carriages collide with statues of gods. Other palanquins with gods and goddesses parade through the city. It can be very crowded and you should stay away from the cars that are facing each other. An ideal way to experience this festival is to stay in a hostel in the center of Bhaktapur, where you can watch the action from your window.
5. Rato Machhendranath
The Rat Machhendranath festival in Patan is the chariot festival of this ancient kingdom, and it is the oldest in Nepal, lasting more than a month. During April and May, a tall carriage is built on Pulchowk Road in Patan. On the first day of the festival, crowds gather to see the idol god of Rata Machhendranath placed inside the carriage. He is then dragged through the streets by teams of men and rests in a different destination each day until he reaches the village of Bungamati, outside Patan, where the idol of god lives the rest of the year. The kumari from Patan also joins the coach in one day.
Rato Machhendranath honors the god who is credited with ending a long drought in the Kathmandu Valley centuries ago. Almost like clockwork, the first day of the festival is accompanied by the first pre-monsoon rains in May.
6. Buddha Jayanti
Buddha Jayanti celebrates Buddha's birthday and is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists. Celebrations take place in shrines and temples across the country, but an especially significant place to experience the festival is at the Boudhanath Stupa, outside Kathmandu. Boudha is the center of Kathmandu's Tibetan population and the stupa is the holiest Tibetan Buddhist site outside of Tibet. Jayanti Buddha is observed in May.
Chhath is the most important festival for Nepalese Terai Hindus in the lowlands bordering India, whose culture is a combination of elements from North India and the hills of Nepal. Observers fast and make offerings to the sun on the banks of rivers or in tanks in Kathmandu. It follows Tihar, which is why it is usually celebrated in early mid-November. The best place to experience this festival is Terai, including the cities around Chitwan.
8. Gai Jatra
Gai Jatra (which means cow festival) is mainly a Newari festival that is celebrated in the Kathmandu valley. Each family that lost a member in the previous year must drive a cow (or a child dressed as a cow) around town. Celebrate the acceptance of death as a natural part of life. The Newar parts of the city (downtown Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur) are the best places to experience it. It takes place in August or early September.
Holi is often mistakenly called the Indian festival of colors when it is actually a Hindu festival, which is why it is vigorously celebrated in Nepal as well. It marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring. People throw colored powders at friends and passersby, but in Nepal water is also an essential component: water pumps, squirt guns, and buckets of water. If you want to stay dry and colorless on Holi, stay inside your hotel! It is usually held in March.
10. Krishna Janmasthami
Lord Krishna is one of the most important figures in Hinduism, as the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu (by context, Hindus believe that Buddha was the ninth and most recent incarnation of Vishnu). This festival celebrates Krishna's birthday and children dress up as Krishna, with a flute or his female consorts.
The Krishna Mandir of Patan is a focal point of the Krishna Janmasthami celebrations in the Kathmandu Valley. Non-Hindus cannot enter the temple itself, but it is quite small, so visitors can easily see everything from the outside.
We hope you enjoy watching this video about The Most Popular Festivals of Nepal
Source: Jatra Nepal
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