Major Festivals of Nepal

  • Oct 19, 2020
  • Shreyaak Kafle
  • 435

Table of Contents

Nepal is home to nearly 29,000,000 people, adherent to their own ethnic groups, religion, and faith. This is a land where various cultures and traditions have thriven in harmony over the centuries and continue to do so till date. No wonder Nepal is also referred to as the Land of Festival. There are hundreds of festivals celebrated every year in Nepal. Usually, festivals are celebrated as per the Nepalese Lunar Calendar set by astrologers. The origin of these festivals dates back centuries and is still celebrated each year with the same enthusiasm as it used to be hundreds of years ago.

List of Nepali Festivals

Dashain

Vijayadashami, also known as Dashain is the biggest and the longest festival of Nepal. It is also written as ‘Bijaya Dashami’ which is also known as ‘Bada Dashain’. The festival is widely celebrated all over the Nepal and worldwide by Hindu religious community. Vijayadashami or Dashain is also known as Dussehra or Dashera in some state of India as well as Indian community around the globe.
It is primarily a festival for Hindus but people of every religion, faith or ethnic groups celebrate it as it has emerged as a part of the culture rather than a religious domain. Although, the way of celebration may vary according to various ethnic groups. This festival is celebrated to rejoice the triumph of victory over evil.

This festival is observed for fifteen days. Ghatasthapana marks the beginning of the festival. Families worship Ashta-Matrikas (8 Tantrik Goddesses) and nine avatars of Durga, one on each day. On the tenth day, families and relatives gather and put Tika and receive blessings from the elders. This usually spread over a span of 5 days. This festival also cherishes the power of femininity and annihilation of evil. The last day of the festival falls on full moon day and is called Kojagrat Purnima.

See more: Dashain - Longest & Auspicious Festival in Nepal

Date: 23rd October 2020 to 27th October, 2020

Tihar

Tihar is a five-day-long festival and follows right after Dashain. This festival is for worshipping animals for their help and company. This festival starts with the worshipping of Crows and Dogs in the first 2 days, respectively. Because of this, it is popular worldwide by the name- 'Festival of dogs'. It is then followed by the worship of cow on the third day.

This festival is also known as Dipawali or ‘Festival of Lights’ and people are observed to be worshipping Laxmi- the goddess of wealth. People decorate their homes with lights and flowers and make Rangolis on the entry-way. Tihar ends with Bhai Tika where sisters put tika on her brother's forehead, exchange gifts and feast on the variety of meals prepared by the family.

Date: 13th November 2020 to 17th November 2020

Losar

Losar is one of the most important festivals of Nepal. This festival is celebrated by the Buddhist and ethnic groups of Nepal like Tamang, Sherpa, Gurung, and Thakali. It literally translates to New Year and has Tibetan roots. Losar is the first day of the New Year and each community celebrates the festival in their own way. Traditional dress is worn by all ages and festivities are held in cities and remote regions. At this festival, there is a big event happening in the vicinity of Tudhikhel where you can expect cultural music, dance, and meal prepared by the locals of the tribe.

There are three Loshar festivals- Tamu Losar, Sonam Losar, and Gyalbo Losar. Tamu Losar is celebrated by the Gurung tribe. Sonam Losar is celebrated by Tamang and Yolmo tribes. Whereas, Gyalbo Losar is celebrated by Sherpas and other Tibetan communities.

Date: 30th December 2020 (Tamu Losar), 5th January 2020 (Sonam Losar), 25th February 2020 (Gyalbo Losar)

Chhath Parva

Chhath is the most important festival for Hindus especially in the Terai region of Nepal. It is usually observed after Dashain and the seventh day after Tihar. Devotee fast and make offerings to the Sun gathering at banks of rivers. In Kathmandu, this festival can be observed at Kamal Pokhari and the banks of Bagmati at Pashupatinath Temple.

Date: 20th November 2020

Holi or Fagu Purnima

Also known as the festival of colors, Holi is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal and India and is gradually catching on all over the world. Holi is the welcoming of a warm and cozy spring after the harsh winter. On this day, people from all ethnic groups, religions, faith, and gender gather out on the street and put colors on passer-by as a token of love. Holi is also celebrated in remembrance of the victory of virtues against the wicked.

In Kathmandu, Holi can be often seen being celebrated with colors, water balloon fights, open concerts, dance parties on the streets and also private events hosted at fancy venues. On this day businesses are closed and the whole Kathmandu valley emerges lively with festivities. The natives visit their relatives and friends, put color and enjoy the day with big feast and drinks. One can walk leisurely on the streets, put colors on people, participate in water balloon fights and interact with the locals.

Thamel, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, and Tudikhel are places with a high concentration of celebrations in Kathmandu.

Date: 9th March 2020 (Hilly Region) and 10th March 2020 (Terai Region)

Mha Puja

Mha puja translated to- worshipping of oneself, is an important festival for the Newar community of Nepal. It is celebrated on the fourth day of Tihar. This day is also a New Year as per the calendar of Nepal Sambat.

Mha Puja is celebrated by performing a ritual puja to cleanse and purify one's body, mind, and soul. Family members sit in a row on the floor with Mandalas drawn in front of them. Then various rituals are performed and the body that they live in is thanked.

Date: 16th November 2020

Teej

Teej is a Hindu festival and is celebrated by married women for their husband’s long health and prosperity. This festival is observed for three days. On the first day, women hold a day-long fasting and pray for their husbands' prosperity and good health. The next two days are followed by ritual Puja dedicated to Lord Shiva.

At this festival, women wear a red sari and are adorned in beautiful ornaments. This festival is celebrated by singing and dancing to commemorate womanhood. In the evening, the fast is broken with fruits and sugar water with their husbands.

Festivities are held in the vicinity of the Pashupatinath Temple and see an influx of people coming there to celebrate the Teej Festival.

Date: 6th August 2020

Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri literally translates to ‘The night of Shiva’ and Shivaratri is seen as one of the most important festivals for Hindus all over the world. Shiva is the supreme lord and the god of destruction, destruction of darkness and ignorance, as per the doctrines of Hinduism. It is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the month Magha, based on the Hindu Lunar Calander, just before the arrival of spring. Or on February 21st, 2020.

The festival of Maha Shivaratri can be seen being concentrated majorly on the perimeters of the Holy Pashupatinath Temple at Kathmandu with glimpses of celebration spread all over the country. With hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visiting the temple from all over Nepal and from countries like India, Malaysia, and Singapore, the ambiance becomes extra exuberant with colors, music, chants, and naked Sadhus- yoga practitioners. This year Nepal is expecting a crowd of 1.3 million people. On this day, devotee offer milk, a special intoxicating flower called Dhaturo, green leaves named Belapatra to Shiva and chant ॐ नम: शिवाय (Om: Namaha Shivaya). The devotee prays to Shiva all night fore light over darkness.

Date: February 21st, 2020

Buddha Jayanti

Buddha Jayanti is celebrated on the full moon day of the Nepalese calendar in the month Bhaishak (April/ May). This day is also known as Vesak day and has a triple significance related to Lord Buddha. On this very day, Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment and finally achieved Nirvana. It is the most important festival for Buddhists all over Nepal and is celebrated with great passion.

Monasteries conduct prayers and various rituals to celebrate this day. Stupas and Buddhist shrines are whitewashed and decorated throughout Nepal. Thousand of pilgrims all over from the world come to visit Lumbini, Swyambhunath, and Bouddhanath stupa. Gifts, donations, and presents are given to the monastery and to the people in need as a part of Swea. The evening is illuminated with hundreds of butter lamps in monasteries and stupas.

Date: May 6th, 2020

Ropain Festival 

Ropain Festival or Ashar 15 signifies an important day in the agriculture country of Nepal. This day is a celebration for rice plantation. The seedlings that are sowed with pre-monsoon rainfall, is transplanted with paddies on that day. The farmers work all day in the sun, rain, and mud. This festival is a positive outlook for all those factors. People sing, dance, splash around the mud, have fun with friends, prepare tasty meals and end the day.

Date: 29th June 2020

Janai Purnima

full moon day festival is about reciting Vedic Mantras and changing of the sacred thread. It is also one of the most important for Hindus of Nepal. People visit temples and get a welfare thread tied on their wrist. People also visit Shiva Temple, bathe on rivers and perform ritual Puja dedicated to Lord Shiva. In Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple and Kumbheswar Mahadev Temple in Patan Durbar Square see an influx of people on this day.

Date: 3rd August 2020

Teechi (Tiji) Festival

Tiji festival is celebrated by the indigenous Buddhists of Lo-Manthang (Upper Mustang). The name is an abbreviation of the word ‘Tempa Chirim’ which means the victory of Lord Buddha’s incarnation ‘Dorjee Sonnu’ over a demon named Man Tam Ru who fed on human beings and caused storms and droughts. The Tiji festival usually takes place on the last week of May for 3 days. Masked dances are performed by the monks of Lo-Manthang in the ‘Choedhe’ monastery.

Date: 19th May 2020 to 21st May 2020

Bisket Jatra

This festival is centered around the legend of mating between God Bhairav and Goddess Bhadrakali and the creation of the world and everything in it. The God Bhairav is the fierce form of Lord Shiva and Bhadrakali, the kind, the warmth of a mother.

On this day, 2 chariots, one of Bhairab and one of Bhadrakali is pulled on the streets of Bhaktapur. A huge crowd gather on the street to pull the chariot on the beats of drums. People dress in traditional clothes and masked dances are performed. On the midnight, the chariot of Bhadrakali is repeatedly rammed against Bhairav’s chariot to mimic the display of their explosive copulation. A giant tug-of-war is performed between the east and the west side of the city. It is believed that whichever sides win, will be the most prosperous for the following year.

Date: 13th April 2020

Gai Jatra

Gai Jatra Festival, ‘Gai’ refers to cow and ‘Jatra’ roughly translate to carnival. Cows also represent Laxmi- the goddess of wealth in Hinduism. It is believed that she guides the departed souls to the gates of heaven. This day is also the day for practical jokes, pranks, and colorful processions. People who have lost their family members dress in comical attire and roam the city and take solace in the that that the cow has safely transported the souls to their afterlife journey.

Date: 8th August 2020

Ghode Jatra

Ghode Jatra (the horse parade) is held in the vicinity of Tudikhel and brings people of Kathmandu to witness the event. It is celebrated during the month of Chaitra (March- April). There is no religious significance to this festival. It is believed that a demon spirit was buried under the grounds of Tudikhel and the horse parade ensure that that demon does not escape its burial site. Various parades, athletics, and acrobats can be observed by the Nepalese Army at this festival.

Date: 23rd March 2020

Indra Jatra

This festival is celebrated to honor Indra- the god of rain. It is celebrated for 8 days in the vicinity of Kathmandu Durbar Square. This festival was initiated by King Gunakamdev in the 10th century and in the 18th century, the Kumari Rath Yatra was also added to the celebration.

On this festival, chariots of Goddess Kumari, Bhairav, and Ganesh are pulled across different parts of the city accompanied by musical bands and masked dances.

Date: 1st September 2020

There are more festivals than the number of days in a year in Nepal. Apart from these mentioned festivals, there is numerous sum of other important festivals celebrated by various ethnic groups and communities throughout Nepal. Shepherd Holidays can arrange all your trips in Nepal giving you the best festive experience at any time of the year.