A festival is always a meaningful event in Nepal where the people find more joy in participation than just watching. In Nepal every festival has some good purpose to serve; such as to bring rain or to have good harvest, to honor a mother or father, to avert calamities or to nourish one’s soul with something spiritual. In fact, festivals are the best way to understand and appreciate the Nepalese way of life.
Navavarsha (April): The Nepalese New Year’s Day usually falls in the second week of April i.e. the first day of Baisakh. The day is observed as a national holiday. The people celebrate it with a great pomp and show. On this occasion, Bisket Jatra is held in the City of Bhaktapur. Baisakh Poornima (April): As Nepal is birthplace of Lord Buddha, the Light of Asia, the triple anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death is observed with many colorful ceremonies on this day. People celebrate the occasion with great veneration paying homage to Buddha at places like Swayambhunath, Bouddhanath and Lumbini.
Red Machchhendranath Rath Jatra (May/June): This festival is the biggest socio-cultural event of Patan. The wheeled chariot of a deity known as Bungdyo or Red Machchhendranath is made at Pulchowk and dragged through the city of Patan in several stages till it reaches the appointed destination Lagankhel. The grand finale of the festival is called the “Bhoto Dekhaune” or the “ showing of the vest”. A similar kind of chariot festival White Machchhendranath is also held in Kathmandu City in the month of March/April.
Dumji (July): It is celebrated in all the Sherpa settlements. The Sherpas of Kathmandu and Helambu regions participate in dancing on this day.
Mani Rimdu (Nov/Dec): It is a Sherpa dance drama performed in the Khumbu Region. It is held annually at Tengboche and Chiwong monasteries and at Thami Gomba. The performers are monk and the occasion is highlighted by much gaiety and feasting. Gaijatra (July/Aug): Gaijatra, popularly known as Cow festival, is a carnival that lasts for eight days. Dancing, singing comedy and anything that causes mirth and laughter are its highlights.
Krishnastami (July/Aug): It marks the birthday of Lord Krishna. On this day, impressive ceremonies are conducted at the Krishna temple in Patan and at Changu Narayan.
Teej (Aug/Sep): Teej is a Hindu festival celebrated by Hindu women. Dancing, folk song and the red color of women’s wedding saris dominate the days of Teej. Women observe a fast flock to Shiva temples where married once pray for a happy conjugal life and unmarried ones for a good husband.
Indrajatra (Aug/Sep): The festival of Indra, the god of rain, is observed with great enthusiasm in Kathmandu valley. The festival lasts for eight days. The chariot of Kumari, the Living Goddess, is taken out in procession through the main streets of Kathmandu. The festival is specially noted for the echoes of drums and dancing feet of the masked dancers.
Dashain / Durga Puja (Sep/Oct): The Dashain festival is the most important festival of the Nepalese. The entire country is in enthusiastic holiday mood at the time of the festival. Tihar (Oct/Nov): Known as the “Festival of Lights”, Tihar is celebrated for five days. Houses are illuminated at night and special sweets of different varieties are prepared.
Vibhaha Panchami (Nov/Dec): This is a famous festival of Janakpur in the eastern Terai. The occasion commemorates the marriage of Sita with Ram, one of the most venerated Hindu divinities. It attracts thousands of pilgrims from India to Janakpur.
Lhosar (Feb): This festival is most impressively observed in the month of February by the Sherpas. They organize folk songs and dances on this occasion. These dances can be seen in Khumbu, Helambu and other northern regions of Nepal and also at Bouddhanath in Kathmandu.
Maha Shivaratri (Feb/March): Shivaratri or the night of Lord Shiva is observed in February/March. It is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva. A great religious fair takes place in the Pasupatinath Temple and thousands of people from all over Nepal and India flock the Temple to worship Lord Shiva.
Ghodejatra (March/April): Known as the Festival Of Horses, it is one of the most exciting festivals of Kathmandu. Horse race and other sports take place at Tundikhel on this day. In other parts of the city, various deities are carried shoulder-high on palanquin (khat) to the accompaniment of traditional music.