Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia with a rich and unique culture. One of the most important aspects of Nepali culture is festival celebrations. Nepal has dozens of festivals throughout the year, each celebrating different gods, goddesses, religious beliefs, and cultural traditions.
Maghe sankranti festival of Nepal ( January )
In Nepal, Maghe Sankranti is also known as Makar Sankranti, and marks the end of the winter season. It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Magh in the Nepali calendar, which falls on January 14th in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is observed by taking a holy dip in rivers, or ponds and donating to charity.
Hindus believe that taking a dip in holy water on this day will absolve them of their sins and purify their soul. As such, many people take part in mass ablutions at riverbanks or ponds. This act also signifies starting afresh and cleanses oneself from all negativity from the past year. People also donate to charity on this day as a way to show compassion and gratitude for what they have been blessed with.
The Tharu community in the Terai region also celebrates the first day of Magh. Magh is the first month in the Nepali calendar and marks the end of winter. The Tharu community in Nepal celebrates the first day of Magh as Maghi. It holds a special significance for the Tharu community as it is their New Year’s Day. On this day, they set aside all differences and come together to celebrate life and renew their bonds with each other.
losar festival of Nepal ( february)
The Losar festival is one of the most important and widely celebrated festivals in Nepal. It marks the start of the Nepalese New Year and is a time for family, friends, and community to come together and celebrate.
Losar is a two-week long festival that culminates on the first day of the Nepalese New Year. The first week of Losar is spent preparing for the celebrations, with people cleaning their homes and making special food items. The second week is when the festivities begin, with feasts, music, dancing, and games taking place throughout the country.
On the morning of Losar, people dress in their finest clothes and visit their local temples to offer prayers for a prosperous new year. Families then gather together for a large feast, which typically features dishes made with meat and vegetables. The rest of the day is spent visiting friends and family members, exchanging gifts, and enjoying festive activities.
The festival is celebrated in the towns of Kathmandu Valley at Boudhanath, Swayambhunath and Jawalakhel near Patan.
Maha Shivratri : (February – March)
Maha Shivratri of nepalMaha Shivratri is one of the most important festivals in Nepal. It is celebrated every year on the 13th day of the Nepali month of Falgun (February-March). The festival commemorates the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Maha Shivaratri falls on a new moon night and so the festival is also known as ‘ChadeHau’ which means ‘the great dark night’. On this night, Lord Shiva performed the ‘tandava’, a cosmic dance that signifies the cycle of creation and destruction.
Devotees believe that worshiping Lord Shiva on Maha Shivaratri can help them overcome negative forces and attain salvation. They fast on this day and offer prayers and fruits to Lord Shiva. Some people also observe a strict fast for 48 hours leading up to Maha Shivaratri.
Holi ( March )
Holi festival of Nepal month Nepal celebrates the Holi festival in the month of Falgun (February-March). It is one of the most popular and widely celebrated festivals in Nepal. The festival commemorates the victory of good over evil, and also signifies the beginning of spring.
On the eve of Holi, people light bonfires and offer prayers to Lord Agni, the god of fire. The next morning, people smear each other with colors and water, and celebrate by dancing to traditional music. The festival is also known as the ‘Festival of Colors’
Holi is a time for rejoicing, love and forgiveness. People forget past grievances and reconcile with friends and family members. They also exchange gifts and sweets.
Seto Machhendranath festival of Nepal ( April – May )
The Seto Machhendranath festival is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal. It is celebrated every year in the month of April or May. It is believed that the deity Machhendranath brings rains and thus, the farmers pray to him for a good harvest.
During the festival, devotees carry a chariot through the streets of Kathmandu. The chariot is made of wood and decorated with colorful fabrics and flowers. On the final day of the festival, the deity is taken to a nearby lake where he is bathed by priests. Afterward, he is taken back to his temple where he resides for the rest of the year.
Biska Jatra festival of Nepal ( April- May )
Biska Jatra, the festival of nepal month, is celebrated in a different way in every town and village of Nepal. The most popular form of the Biska Jatra celebration is the chariot festival. On this day, a large wooden chariot carrying the statue of Lord Vishnu is pulled through the streets by devotees.
In some parts of Nepal, the Biska Jatra festival is also known as the ‘festival of swings’. On this day, people swing on large swings made from ropes and bamboo poles. The swings are set up in public places like temples and parks, and people take turns to swing on them.
Another popular form of the Biska Jatra celebration is the ‘boat race festival’. This is held in some parts of Nepal where there are rivers and lakes. On this day, boats decorated with flowers and banners race each other on the water. It is a very exciting event to watch!
Balkumari jatra of Nepal (April – May )
Balkumari jatra is celebrated every year on the full moon day of Baisakh (April-May). The festival is observed in memory of Balkumari, a goddess who is believed to have brought fertility to the land. During the festival, a large procession of people carrying Balkumari’s image visits different villages. The procession is accompanied by music and dancing.
The highlight of the festival is a puja (religious ceremony) that is held at a temple dedicated to Balkumari. After the puja, a feast is organized for all the villagers. This feast includes traditional Nepali food such as dal bhat (a dish made with lentils and rice), curries, and vegetables.
Balkumari jatra is an important event for farmers as it marks the beginning of the planting season. In some parts of Nepal, farmers also take part in a special ritual called ghatu parva during which they sow seeds and pray for a good harvest.
Rato Machhendranath festival of Nepal ( May – june)
Rato Machhendranath is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal. It is celebrated every year in the month of April-May. The festival is observed for 15 days, ending on the full moon day of Jestha (May-June). It is believed that Rato Machhendranath brings rain during the monsoon season.
The main event of the festival takes place in Patan, where a huge chariot carrying a statue of Rato Machhendranath is taken through the streets. Devotees pull the chariot with great reverence and offer flowers and fruits to the deity. The whole town comes alive during this time with music and dance.
In recent years, the Rato Machhendranath festival has become a tourist attraction, with people coming from all over Nepal and even from abroad to witness this unique event.
Buddha Jayanti of Nepal (May)
Buddha Jayanti, also known as Buddha Purnima, is a religious festival that commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. The festival is observed on the full moon day in the month of May in Theravada Buddhist countries such as Nepal. In Nepal, the day is also marked by processions, chanting of holy scriptures and distribution of blessed food.
Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal in 623 BC. He was born into a royal family but he renounced all worldly possessions at the age of 29 and set out on a quest for truth. After six years of austerity and meditation, he attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya under a tree. He spent the rest of his life teaching people about his insights into life and how to attain liberation from suffering. He passed away at Kushinagar at the age of 80.
Ghanta karna festival of Nepal (August)
On this night, the demon Ghanta Karna is burnt in effigy. The death of an evil demon occurred when a god disguised as a frog lured him into a deep well only to be subsequently devoured by crocodiles. Ghanta Karna’s demise was celebrated throughout Newari villages on this night of liberation from darkness and evil.
Gai Jatra festival of Nepal (August)
Gai Jatra is one of the most popular festivals in Nepal. It is celebrated every year on the first day of the Nepali month of Bhadra (August–September). The festival commemorates the death of people during the previous year. Families who have lost a member during the year dress up a young boy as a cow and parade him through the streets.
The name Gai Jatra comes from two words – “gai” meaning cow and “jatra” meaning festival. Cows are considered sacred animals in Hinduism and they are believed to be able to guide human souls to heaven. In Nepal, cows are also seen as symbols of prosperity and fertility.
During Gai Jatra, families set up stalls selling traditional snacks and drinks like sel roti (a type of rice bread) and lassi (a yogurt-based drink). There is also a lot of singing and dancing, and people dress up in colorful costumes. The festival is a time for mourning as well as celebrating, and it is believed that by participating in Gai Jatra, families can help their deceased loved ones find peace in the afterlife.
Teej / Hartalika Teej festival of Nepal (august )
This festival is celebrated by Hindu women and girls. They fast for the long life of their husband / fiancé / boyfriend. Some women also fast for other reasons such as good health, prosperity, and luck.
The festival usually lasts for 3 days. On the first day, women wake up early and take a holy bath called ‘snana’. They wear new clothes and put red vermillion powder on their forehead called ‘sindur’. Women then offer prayers to Goddess Parvati for a long life for their husband / fiancé / boyfriend.
On the second day, women visit temples and offer prayers again. On the third day, they break their fast and feast on special food items prepared for this occasion such as sweets, fruits, etc.Teej / Hartalika Teej is an important festival in Nepal because it celebrates the bond between husbands and wives / fiancés and girlfriends. It is also a time for families to come together and enjoy each other’s company.
Indra Jatra is also known as Yenye Jatra, (September )
It’s a three day festival in Nepal. On the first day of the festival, large processions are taken out through the streets of Kathmandu. People dressed as gods and goddesses, animals and demons march through the streets while musicians play traditional instruments. The procession ends at Hanuman Dhoka Palace, where a special puja (worship) is performed for Lord Indra.
On the second day of Indra Jatra, another procession called Bhairab Rato Machhendranath Jatra starts from Jawalakhel and makes its way to Sundhara via Asan Tole. This procession is led by a chariot carrying Bhairava (a form of Lord Shiva), accompanied by deities like Machhendranath and Ganesh. The procession culminates at Sundhara with a puja being performed for all three deities.
The third and final day of Indra Jatra sees yet another grand procession known as Kumari Jatra. A living goddess known as Kumari Devi is carried through the streets in a palanquin by four men. She is accompanied by two guards (boys dressed as girls). This procession also ends at Hanuman Dhoka Palace where special pujas are performed for Kumari Devi and other goddesses like Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati.
Indra Jatra is truly a spectacular festival that should not be missed if you are ever in Nepal during this time!
Dashain Festival of Nepal (October )
Dashain is a Hindu festival that typically falls in October or November, and marks the end of the monsoon season.
Dashain celebrates the victory of good over evil, and is thus a very auspicious occasion for Hindus. The festival lasts for 15 days, and during this time families get together to feast, pray, exchange gifts, and catch up on all the news.
The main event of Dashain takes place on the First, Eighth, Ninth and tenth day in honor of the goddess Durga. In Kathmandu Valley, tens of thousands of people flock to Tundikhel to watch this spectacular event.
So if you find yourself in Nepal during Dashain season, be sure to join in on the fun!
Tihar festival of Nepal ( October – November)
During the festival of Tihar, Nepalese people hang brightly-colored garlands of flowers around the necks of their cattle and offer them special foods. Cows are particularly venerated during Tihar as they are seen as symbols of prosperity and Nepal’s goddess of wealth and good fortune, Laxmi. In the evening, people put oil lamps inside terracotta pots and place them outside their homes to light the way for Goddess Laxmi. Families also exchange gifts, share special meals, and engage in fun activities together.
The five-day festival of Tihar is celebrated throughout Nepal with great fanfare. It is a time when families come together to enjoy each other’s company and honor Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.
The first day of Tihar is known as Kaag (crow) Puja. On this day, crows are offered food and considered to be messengers of the god Yamaraj, lord of death. Crows are thought to be able to guide souls to the afterlife so it is important to keep them happy!
The second day is Kukur (dog) Puja. Dogs are considered loyal protectors and guardians so they are honored on this day with special food offerings.
The third day of the Tihar festival is dedicated to the worship of cows and the goddess Lakshmi. Cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and are seen as a symbol of prosperity. On this day, families will decorate their cows with paint and flowers and offer them special prayers.
The goddess Lakshmi is also worshiped on this day, as she is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Families will offer her special prayers and offerings in order to seek her blessings.
On the fourth day we celebrate ox Puja in which we express our gratitude to these hardworking animals who provide us with transportation, dairy products, farming assistance, etc.
The fifth and final day is called Bhai Tika when brothers apply tika marks on their sisters’ foreheads for protection from evil forces.